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Associated Press

Amnesty: Honduran Coup Gov't Persecuting Opponents

Juan Carlos Llorca

Riot police guard outside the Supreme Justice Court building during a protest in support of Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya in Tegucigalpa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009. Honduras' interim government ordered Argentine diplomats Tuesday to leave the country in three days, sending a defiant message ahead of a visit by six foreign ministers who are seeking the restoration of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — The rights group Amnesty International is
alleging widespread abuse of protesters demanding the return of the
Honduran president ousted in a coup, saying in a report Wednesday that
hundreds of people have been beaten and detained under the interim

The London-based organization said its monitors
visited one prison where dozens of people were detained for several
hours after a protest, many of them with bruises and other injuries
from police beatings. Police have also arrested and beaten journalists
and human rights advocates at marches, the group said.

Police denied they use excessive force against protesters.

report coincides with a visit from an Organization of American States
panel to investigate allegations of abuse and intimidation against
protesters and the media. The OAS later plans to send a delegation of
six foreign ministers in a bid to revive stalled negotiations to
reinstate Zelaya, who was forced into exile in a June 28 coup.

government of interim President Roberto Micheletti has increasingly
cracked down on pro-Zelaya protests, vowing it will no longer tolerate
street blockades, vandalism and other disruptions.

About 2,000
protesters gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa on
Wednesday to demand a stronger stand by the Obama administration
against Micheletti's government. Hours later, a caravan of about 1,000
cars drove along the city's main avenues with their passengers honking
horns and shouting slogans in favor of Zelaya.

Police spokesman
Orlin Cerrato said police try first to negotiate with demonstrators,
then use internationally accepted tactics to disperse them. He insisted
police move only against protesters who are violent or unlawfully block

Cerrato said protesters last week burned buses and businesses, broke windows, threw rocks and attacked police officers.

"We have had to act based on the level of violence of the protesters," he said.

government says it has released most of the people arrested during
protests. Last week, prosecutors filed sedition and other charges
against more than two dozen Zelaya supporters after violent protests in
the capital, Tegucigalpa. Protesters kicked and punched the vice
president of Congress one day and allegedly burned a bus and a
restaurant another day.

At least two people have been shot to death during protests. Cerrato said authorities are investigating who fired the shots.

said many of the people interviewed were detained at a July 30 march
that turned violent when police purportedly charged without warning,
"causing panic and chaotic scenes as people tried to flee." Military
personnel, deployed behind rows of charging police, allegedly shouted
support for the beatings of demonstrators, Amnesty said.

teacher, interviewed at a hospital, broke her ankle when police chased
her and "pushed her so hard she fell four or five meters (yards),"
Amnesty said. A Chilean photojournalist said about 20 police surrounded
him, demanded his camera and beat him when he refused, the report said.

human rights activist said police tied him up with his own shoelace
when he tried to prevent them from beating three protesters last week,
according to the report. The activist said police charged at
demonstrators who were trying to prevent firefighters from
extinguishing the bus and restaurant fires.

Zelaya, meanwhile,
kept up his campaign to consolidate his support among Latin American
leaders, meeting with Peruvian President Alan Garcia in Lima on

Garcia expressed his support for Zelaya's return to
power, saying the crisis must be resolved soon "to help heal this
momentary wound to democracy."

Zelaya renewed calls for tougher
action from the United States, Honduras' biggest trade partner. The
U.S. has suspended millions of dollars in development and military aid,
but Zelaya called for trade sanctions that he said would swiftly bring
down the interim government.

"The measures taken against the coup leaders so far have been lukewarm, soft," he said.

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