Men in Michael Dwyer case in Bolivia set for release

Two men arrested in police raid that killed Irishman plead guilty in plea bargain

 Mario Tadic (second left) and Elod Toaso (second right), at their trial, in La Paz, Bolivia. Photograph: Martin Alipaz/EPA

Mario Tadic (second left) and Elod Toaso (second right), at their trial, in La Paz, Bolivia. Photograph: Martin Alipaz/EPA

 

The two men arrested in the police raid that killed Michael Dwyer in Bolivia pleaded guilty to complicity in armed insurrection at their trial on Friday, in return for reduced sentences that pave the way for their imminent release.

Hungarian Elod Toaso and Bolivian-Croatian Mario Tadic accepted an offer by prosecutors, admitting the complicity charge in return for sentences of five years and 10 months, the amount of time they have been held since their arrest in April 2009. They can now apply to the court for immediate release based on time served.

Along with 37 Bolivians, the pair had faced charges, including terrorism, that carry sentences of up to 25 years in prison. Bolivia’s authorities claim the accused were part of a plot to assassinate president Evo Morales and foment a secessionist war in the country’s eastern lowlands.

But Tadic undermined his own admission by telling the courtroom after news of the deal emerged, “We are accepting guilt in order to be free.” Toaso also said he was admitting guilt in return for a lighter sentence.

Denied involvement

The Irish Times

Mr Dwyer’s family has denied their son was involved in terrorism and says it has gathered evidence that he was summarily executed.

As well as Toaso and Tadic, two other accused have accepted plea bargains while another five are reportedly negotiating deals with prosecutors. Other defendants, including five still in prison, say they will continue to fight the charges against them.

Gary Prado, the defence lawyer of several of the accused, including his father, said Bolivia’s government had used the “arbitrary and illegal” detention of Tadic and Toaso as a “form of extortion” in order to extract an admission of guilt. “They accepted the deal as the only way to get out of Bolivia,” he said.

Relief for authorities

Details of official wrongdoing have emerged over the years as a result of bitter infighting between warring factions within the state apparatus. Former intelligence officials who have fallen out with the administration have since indicated that the whole affair was orchestrated by the government in order to dismantle opposition in Santa Cruz to Mr Morales.

The public prosecutor who investigated the case has since fled to Brazil, from where he claimed senior officials in the Morales administration controlled his investigation in order to implicate its political opponents.

The Dwyer family has called for an international inquiry into the circumstances of his killing. Bolivia’s government says no such inquiry can take place until the trial in Santa Cruz has concluded.