TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – A Honduran court dismissed the last two remaining charges Monday against former President Manuel Zelaya, removing a key obstacle to his return to the country.
The decision could also smooth the way for the country's return to the Organization of American States, which expelled Honduras following the June 2009 coup that ousted Zelaya.
OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said in a statement from Washington that "this puts an end to the uncertainty over the former president's legal situation."
"The main condition for Honduras' return to the organization has been fulfilled," he wrote in the statement. "I will immediately begin consultation with the member states to examine their willingness to call an assembly to consider the issue."
Honduras was expelled from the OAS and subjected to diplomatic isolation following the coup. Most countries re-established relations after Lobo took office.
A special appeals court panel dismissed charges of fraud and falsifying documents lodged against Zelaya after the coup.
The court said those criminal charges could have improperly overlapped with civil law and should be vacated. Federal prosecutors said they'll appeal the court decision, with 60 days to file the appeal.
In March, a judge suspended arrest warrants related to the charges, which Zelaya claims are politically motivated.
Zelaya has already said he won't return from the Dominican Republican, where he lives, because he fears for his life. In an interview with the Honduran radio station Radio Globo in March, Zelaya claimed "there are people who want to liquidate me and are still alive, and they have great power." He added that his enemies include powerful businessmen but gave no other details.
Zelaya did not immediately respond to the court's actions Monday.
Zelaya's campaign to rewrite the constitution, possibly to allow his re-election, angered Honduras' business elite in 2009. The military deposed him and flew him out of the country at gunpoint when he ignored a Supreme Court order to cancel a referendum on the constitutional rewrite.
Roberto Micheletti, a former congressional leader, took power on an interim basis, and former National Congress President Porfirio Lobo won the country's presidency in late 2009 in an election scheduled before the coup. Lobo replaced Micheletti the following January.
In April, Lobo met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombian leader Juan Manuel Santos in Cartagena, Colombia, where the three agreed that dropping the charges against Zelaya could help Honduras' return to the Organization of American States. Venezuela and its leftist allies had opposed Honduras' return.