San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Gold Digger

Lawyer in Crucitas fight goes to court for defamation charges

One of the environmental lawyers who has led the fight against gold mining at Las Crucitas near the Nicaraguan border appeared in court Monday to face accusations he defamed the mining company, Industrias Infinito.

“It was only a few things I said to a newspaper of national circulation,” said Edgardo Araya after his appearance in the Justice Courts of Goicochea. “And they interpreted it as offensive.”

Neither Araya nor lawyers for Crucitas would address what the alleged defamatory comments were.

Industrias Infinito is a subsidiary of the Canadian mining company Infinito Gold, Inc. The company has been trying to extractgold from a site near Las Crucitas for more than a decade. Those plans were struck down by the Supreme Court’s Civil and Administrative Law Branch (Sala I) in November of 2010. The company has appealed that decision.

Araya and other lawyers battling against the Crucitas mine, which was first proposed in 1993 and was declared to be in the public interest by former president Óscar Arias in 2006, petitioned the Sala I last week to dismiss any pending appeals by Infinito Gold. This came after allegations that Moisés Fachler, a substitute judge in the previous Crucitas trial allegedly leaked a draft of a ruling by the Sala I to representatives of Industrias Infinito last October.

After Monday’s hearing Industrias Infinito’s lawyer, Ciro Casas, declined to comment on the case. Araya’s legal team would only say Industrias Infinito had offered to settle the matter, but the two sides could not agree on terms.

“It was a great opportunity to arrive at some type of agreement,” Araya said. “However, the terms they wanted to work out were impossible for us… We’ll take it to the judge.”

Infinito Gold is seeking damages, according to Araya’s advisers, of up to $1 million. Before the hearing Araya said he feels the mining company is waging a campaign of fear through legal intimidation in hopes of silencing critics like him.

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