Honduras SC threatens Zelaya

TEGUCIGALPA: Honduras's Supreme Court has rejected a Costa Rica-brokered deal that would have restored ousted President Manuel Zelaya to power and sternly warned that he faces arrest if he returns.

In a ruling late Saturday that fell in line with similar pronouncements by the military-backed regime, the high court said that Zelaya will not be allowed to return to power, and "cannot avoid having to submit to established procedures of the penal process" should he return to Honduras.

Zelaya was ousted from power in a June 28 military-backed coup and replaced with interim leader Roberto Micheletti.

The court decision also accused Zelaya of "crimes against the government, treason against the nation, abuse of power" and other misdeeds, as it affirmed the legitimacy of Micheletti's government.

Micheletti's government had been installed as part of a lawful "constitutional succession," the high court found.

The ruling may signal the death knell for the proposal mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias that called for Zelaya to return to power, an amnesty for political crimes, and early elections.

Under this agreement Micheletti would return to his pre-coup post as speaker of Honduras's parliament.

Zelaya was originally elected as a moderate conservative but took a sharp turn to the left while in office, aligning himself with Venezuela's socialist leader Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales.

Elected in 2006 for a non-renewable four-year term, Zelaya was ousted after forging ahead with controversial plans to hold a referendum to change the constitution so that he could extend his stay in office.

The country's top court previously ruled the move was illegal, and backed the bloodless coup during which Zelaya was bundled in his pajamas onto a plane bound for Costa Rica.

The latest ruling comes on the eve of the planned arrival in Honduras Monday of a delegation of foreign ministers from Organization of American State countries.

The delegation was hoping to negotiate a solution to the succession crisis gripping the impoverished Central American country.

It was not immediately clear whether the weekend high court ruling would affect their plans.

The foreign ministers, whose mission has faced delays for the past two weeks, planned to meet Monday and Tuesday with interim Honduran officials.

The delegation, led by OAS Secretary General Miguel Insulza, was to include diplomatic chiefs from Argentina, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.