Jorge Coc Coc and Marcelino Xol Cucul, indigenous authorities from the Choctun Basilá community, in the municipality of Cobán, department of Alta Verapaz, are members of the Community Council of the Highlands (CCDA) and have been imprisoned in the Preventive Detention Center for Men and Women of Cobán since 2018. In 2019 they were sentenced to 35 non-commutable years, for the crimes of homicide and attempted homicide relating to the death of Leonardo Coc Ical and injury to Edgar Gabriel Polom on July 13, 2017, both members of the Chilté cooperative, neighboring Choctún Basilá.

The events occurred within the context of a long-standing conflict between the Choctún Basilá community and the Chilté cooperative over a piece of farm land called 1,684. Although Choctún Basilá holds the ownership documents, the cooperative has grabbed large extensions of this land in order to sell it to large landowners for monoculture plantations. Members of the Choctún Basilá community have denounced the following practices perpetrated against them by members of the Chilté cooperative: damage to crops, illegal logging, shooting and destruction of other natural assets. As a result of the conflict, a series of negotiation roundtables were held in 2016 and 2017. A wave of defamations and criminalization against several leaders of the Choctún Basilá community took place following their participation in these roundtables.

The trial against Jorge and Marcelino was marked by serious violations of due process. Six months following the events of July 13, 2017, 16 arrest warrants were issued against residents from Choctun Basilá. There was no individualization of the alleged crimes from the outset and out of all the various accusations. Jorge Coc Coc and Marcelino Xol Cucul were eventually sentenced for the incidents, despite the fact that the two HRDs presented witnesses who corroborated that they were not present in the community at the time of the incidents occurred.

Jorge Coc, who lived in Las Pacayas, about 40 minutes from Choctun Basilá, where he works his land, was arrested on January 16, 2018. He stated that on the day of the incidents he was at home in Las Pacayas taking care of his sick father. Marcelino Xol was arrested on March 12, 2018 by private individuals who beat him before taking him to a police station. He claims that on July 13, 2017 he was teaching at the school in a community in Chisec, several hours away from the scene of the crime. Minutes from activities at the school, where he is the principal, and records from their admission books, make it clear that Marcelino was at the school that day. In addition to their testimonies, prosecution witnesses also testified that they did not know either of the two defendants and that they had not seen them at the scene of the crime. In addition to the inconsistencies in the witness statements as well as the evidence of their innocence, the process was marked by multiple violations of due process: both Jorge and Marcelino were convicted for the homicide of a person with a single gunshot wound, which is already a factual impossibility; a ballistic examination was never performed; the sentence does not individualize the facts and lacks evidentiary basis; the court has used an excess of preventive detention, as they have been in jail since 2018 in the absence of a final ruling.

The judicial process is currently awaiting the resolution of the extraordinary appeal for cassation filed by the defense team for both defenders: the Indigenous Peoples’ Law Firm. The public hearing at the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) is scheduled to take place on December 6, 2021.