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Police in Honduras arrest three in slaying of activist

Police in Honduras arrest three in slaying of activist
Mourners pray at the funeral for Lesbia Janeth Urquia, an environmentalist and indigenous rights activist, in Marcala, Honduras, on July 8, 2016. (Fernando Antonio / Associated Press)

Authorities in Honduras said Wednesday that they have arrested three suspects in the slaying of an environmental and indigenous rights activist — the third person from the same organization to have been killed in four months.

Two men and a minor were arrested in connection with the slaying of Lesbia Janeth Urquia, the Public Ministry said in a statement. One of the men is Urquia's brother-in-law and officials said the killing appeared to be the result of a family dispute.

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But the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, known as COPINH, with which Urquia was affiliated, rejected the theory. Last week it had blamed the government for her death.

The council's coordinator, Tomas Gomez, said Wednesday that authorities were trying to undermine their efforts to stop a local hydroelectric project and protect the environment.

Gomez said officials have insisted that "the murder has nothing to do with the political decisions about granting concessions and the privatization of natural resources."

Urquia's body was found last week in a garbage dump in Marcala in western Honduras. She had disappeared Tuesday afternoon after going out to ride her bicycle.

It came four months after the slaying of internationally recognized environmentalist Berta Caceres of COPINH. Another activist from the same organization, Nelson Garcia, was killed two weeks later.

Authorities have arrested four people in Caceres' death, including an army officer and at least one man who worked for a hydroelectric project she opposed.

Global Witness, a London-based organization, considers Honduras the world's most dangerous country for environmentalists. According to its count, 111 activists were killed between 2002 and 2014.

COPINH said last week that Urquia was an outspoken opponent of hydroelectric projects in the La Paz region, particularly the Aurora I dam.

But the Public Ministry said that Urquia's brother-in-law, Manuel Orlando Lopez Ortiz, had threatened her over a dispute about an inheritance with her sister. It said he contracted two others to kill her.

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