Michael Dwyer associates’ trial in Bolivia thrown into turmoil

Public prosecutor’s resignation follows emergence of evidence linking him to extortion ring

The government claims the men were involved in a plot to assassinate Bolivian president Evo Morales and foment secessionist violence in the antigovernment stronghold of Santa Cruz. Photograph: Reuters

The government claims the men were involved in a plot to assassinate Bolivian president Evo Morales and foment secessionist violence in the antigovernment stronghold of Santa Cruz. Photograph: Reuters

Sat, Mar 23, 2013, 06:00

The troubled trial of two men arrested in Bolivia during the raid in which Irishman Michael Dwyer was killed, and of 37 others, was plunged into turmoil again this week when the public prosecutor in charge of the case suddenly resigned and disappeared.

Marcelo Soza said he was quitting after receiving threats. But it follows the emergence of evidence linking him to an extortion ring within the Bolivian government. In one audio recording a voice — allegedly Soza’s — can be heard discussing the planting and disappearing of evidence in the trial.

The prosecutor had led the investigation into events surrounding the police raid on the Las Americas hotel in the city of Santa Cruz on April 16th, 2009, when Mr Dwyer and two other men were shot dead by police.

The government claims the men were involved in a plot to assassinate Bolivian president Evo Morales and foment secessionist violence in the antigovernment stronghold of Santa Cruz. Two men arrested during the raid and 37 others are currently on trial for terrorism offences.

Dwyer’s family claims he was summarily executed and has submitted a report to the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions in its quest for an international inquiry.

Soza’s disappearance follows the arrest in November of Fernando Rivera, head of legal affairs at Bolivia’s interior ministry and head government lawyer in the trial, by police investigating an alleged extortion plot.

After Soza’s resignation lawyers for the 39 defendants demanded the case be thrown out and their clients released.