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Saturday 21 April 2018

Hotel guests on night of Michael Dwyer killing contradict Bolivian authorities' claims of 'shoot-out'

Michael Dwyer who was shot dead in April 2009 over an alleged political assassination plot targeting president Evo Morales. Photo: PA Wire
Michael Dwyer who was shot dead in April 2009 over an alleged political assassination plot targeting president Evo Morales. Photo: PA Wire Newsdesk Newsdesk

A Brazilian man who was staying in the Santa Cruz hotel the night Michael Dwyer was shot dead by Bolivian police in 2009 has contradicted the authorities’ version of events.

Marcos Brandt was staying on the same floor as Tipperary man Dwyer and claims there was no shoot-out on the night in question.

Speaking to the Irish Times, Brandt said he believes the gunfire sounded like blanks and was not consistent with cross-fire.

Michael Dwyer, 24, from Brocka, Ballinderry, Co Tipperary, was killed in April 2009 during a police operation over an alleged political assassination plot targeting president Evo Morales.

Three people that police believe were planning to assassinate President Evo Morales were killed on the night. 

Bolivian authorities claim the group Dwyer was with was pursued back to the hotel by police, where a shoot-out took place.

However, Brandt recalls a large explosion before a uniformed man appeared at the door to his hotel room and told him to lie on the floor.

Brandt told the Irish newspaper there was between two to five minutes of calm before he heard shooting. He said it was ‘intense and continuous’ but was not consistent with cross-fire.

Once Brandt left the room and noticed little signs of damage, he said he was convinced the police had been shooting blanks to simulate a gun battle.

Brandt’s testimony contradicts the authorities’ version of events, as well as the Bolivian ballistics report.

The Irish Times also spoke to Brandt’s work colleague at the time, whose version of events coincides with Brandt’s, except for the fact he also recalls someone pleading for their life in Spanish.

The mother of Michael, Caroline, visited Bolivia in September for five days where she formally petitioned the government  for an independent international inquiry into his death.

“If anybody ever had a living nightmare, this is it,” she told at the time.

“To find out your son has been killed in the most horrific of circumstances is really difficult. We will never as a family get over this. I thought the trip to the country might help to put some closure on it - but it became clear we’re not going to get closure.”

During her trip she visited the hotel where her son died, and met representatives from the Bolivian government, as well as witnesses in the case surrounding his killing.

“It’s clear that the Bolivian authorities have no intention of carrying out an impartial investigation. They are also incapable of doing do so.

“Therefore, we believe we need an independent investigation consisting of an international panel.”

She said she will not give up until she “restores Michael’s good name.”

“His right to defend himself was taken away when they took his life. I will not stop until we get the truth.”

Marcelo Soza, the former Bolivian chief prosecutor who is seeking refugee status in Brazil following the killing, had previously told the family that he believed Mr Dwyer was unarmed when killed. Post-mortem reports have also indicated that Mr Dwyer was unarmed.

Mr Soza also claimed there was no shoot-out in the hotel and no evidence that Mr Dwyer was knowingly involved in an assassination plot.

He said he was appointed to investigate the case days before the killing.

Meanwhile, Hungarian Elod Toaso, who was with him before his death, told a trial into his involvement in terrorism that the Irishman survived the bloody hotel raid at Santa Cruz in April 2009 - where it was reported he had been shot - and was later seen alive at the city's international airport.

He claimed Mr Dwyer was probably summarily executed at Viru Viru airport.

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