A human rights group has questioned the decision of a public prosecutor in Guatemala to charge the director of transgender rights group with attempted murder.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Jorge López.

Human Rights First said:

“Mr López is the director of a prominent organisation that works to protect the rights of transgendered sex workers in Guatemala and he has spent many years advocating for them.

“He worked closely with the victim and sought police protection for her shortly before the attack.

“He later submitted complaints about police misconduct against sex workers, shortly before the arrest warrant against him was issued.

“On Friday January 23, 2009, López faces a court hearing and may be sent to prison.

“Given the nature of his work, he would face considerable risks in prison.

“It is possible to prevent an unnecessary trial, and even a conviction, if the appropriate authorities can determine now that there is insufficient evidence to arrest and charge him.”

Human Rights First is asking the Guatemalan Attorney General to begin an independent review of the validity of the charges against Mr López.

Last year the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission claimed there is an “apparent policy of persecuting sexual rights activists” in Guatemala.

IGLHRC said that on October 18th an HIV prevention event in Samayac Suchitepéquez, a town located 158km from Guatemala City, was granted and then refused permission to use the municipal hall after the mayor was questioned by church groups.
The event ultimately took place in a rental space.

“Although the police provided some protection at the start of the event, their presence was transient,” according to the human rights group.

“After they abandoned the event, someone threw a tear gas bomb into the room where the event was being held.

“While no one was seriously injured, people fainted, children became excessively tearful, and everyone was affected by the fumes.”

A similar attack took place in 2007 at an LGBTI festival in La Blanca, Ocos San Marcos, a small town 300km from Guatemala City.

LGTBI activists have subsequently been unable to meet in that town.