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New Supreme Court Chief Ordered to Stand Trial for Treason

April 4, 1985

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ The new chief of the Supreme Court, picked by Congress in a power struggle with President Robert Suazo Cordova, has been ordered to stand trial on charges that he committed treason by accepting the post.

Marco Antonio Lanza, a criminal court judge, ruled Wednesday there was enough evidence to order Ramon Valladares Soto, the new president of the Supreme Court, to be tried. The ruling means Valladares will remain in prison during his trial, which could last as long as six months.

A power struggle between Suazo Cordova and Congress boiled over last Friday when Congress fired five of the nine Supreme Court justices, accusing them of corruption, and appointed five new ones. Suazo Cordova said their action was unconstitutional and amounted to a ″technical coup.″

Over the weekend, Lanza charged the five new judges with treason, but only Valladares was jailed. On Monday, treason charges were filed against the 53 members of the 82-member Congress who approved the Supreme Court shakeup.

The military remained on alert Wednesday, with soldiers confined to their barracks as rumors of a coup persisted, as they have throughout the crisis. Gen. Walter Lopez Reyes, the armed forces chief, has said the military supports the constitution and would intervene only in case of civil disorder.

Congressional leader Efrain Bu Giron condemned Lanza’s ruling, calling it a ″judicial aberration.″

″This act means that in Honduras, justice ... has been converted into an instrument of revenge,″ he said.

Bu Giron said he is willing to meet with Suazo Cordova to discuss ways of ending the tug-of-war over who should serve on the Supreme Court.

Bu Giron announced his decision after meeting Tuesday with a committee of business and labor leaders formed to find a solution to the political crisis.

The congressional leader said the crisis was caused by Suazo Cordova, charging the president was maneuvering to remain in power beyond his term. Presidential elections are scheduled for Nov. 27 and the constitution bars the president from seeking re-election.

Suazo Cordova’s Liberal Party holds 44 seats in Congress, but is divided over its presidential nominee. The president’s faction supports Oscar Mejia Rellano, a former interior minister, while another faction backs Bu Giron.

The business and union leaders met for 10 hours Tuesday with Bu Giron and issued a statement afterward saying the meeting was marked by ″an atmosphere of sincerity.″ It asked him to take immediate action to resolve the crisis.

Congress said in a resolution Tuesday night it wants Suazo Cordova ″to act with responsibility″ and it charged the president acted ″abusively″ in the jailing of Valladares.

Commenting on the filing of the treason charges by Lanza, the congressional statement said his actions are ″an affront to the power of the legislature″ and charged he had been acting on the instructions of the president. Lanza has denied the allegation.

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