Guerrero: prisoners of the OPIM are released

The Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Montaña (CDHM, El Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña Tlachinollan) released the following press release regarding the appeal granted to 4 of the 5 members of the Indiginous Me’phaa People’s Organization (OPIM, Organización del Pueblo Indígena Me’phaa):

Federal judge grants appeal by Me’phaa indigenous men imprisoned in Ayutla

  • The verdict was announced on 15th October in favour of four prisoners. One will remain in prison.
  • The prisoners who won the appeal should be freed by tomorrow, Tuesday 21st October.
  • The verdict demonstrates that the aim of the arrests was to put an end to their organised work

Tlapa, Guerrero, Mexico on October 20, 2008- The Eigth District judge based in Acapulco, Livia Lizabeth Larumbe Radilla, granted the appeal by four of the five members of the Indigenous Me’phaa People’s Organisation (Organización del Pueblo Indígena Me´phaa, OPIM). For six months they have been imprisoned in Ayutla jail, accused of the murder of an Army informer.

Following this verdict that was announced on 15th October, the First Instance Mixed judge in Ayutla, Alfredo Sánchez Sánchez, was notified on Friday 17th and he has 24 hours to release the accused indigenous men.

This would mean that tomorrow, 21st October, at the latest, the prisoners will be leaving the jail, except for Raúl Hernández Abundio, who will remain in prison because the District judge says that the witnesses claim that he was present when the gun that killed Alejandro Feliciano García was fired, on 1st January this year. However, this accusation is very vague.

Manuel Cruz Victoriano, Orlando Manzanarez Lorenzo, Natalio Ortega Cruz, Romualdo Santiago Enedina and Raúl Hernández Abundio are residents of the El Camalote community where 14 indigenous men were forcibly sterilised by the Department of Health and they belong to the OPIM, an organisation that demands, fights for and exercises human rights.

The five human rights defenders have been imprisoned since 17th April this year, after being arrested at a police-military checkpoint which forms part of the Mixed Operations Bases (Bases de Operaciones Mixtas, BOM). They were accused of being responsible for the death of Alejandro Feliciano García.

On the 7th July the prisoners and their legal advisors from Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre turned to the federal justice system to request an appeal because they believed that the preliminary detention order, issued on 23rd April by Alfredo Sánchez Sánchez, was illegal and unconstitutional. They pointed out that he based his verdict on “subjective hearsay” and the “suspicions” of supposed witnesses.

Three months after that request before the federal courts, the Eighth District judge Livia Lizabeth Larumbe decided to grant the appeal on 15th October, in favour of Manuel Cruz Victoriano, Orlando Manzanarez Lorenzo, Natalio Ortega Cruz and Romualdo Santiago Enedina.

At the Human Rights Centre we believe that the revocation of this preliminary detention order obliges the Mixed First Instance judge in Ayutla to order the immediate release of the four Me’phaa indigenous men and carry out a fair trial, in accordance with the law for Raúl Hernández Abundio, because like his colleagues, he too is innocent, given that there is no direct accusation to indicate that they saw him fire the weapon at Alejandro Feliciano and the simple fact that you are at the scene, doesn’t make you responsible for a crime.

Similarly, we appreciate that this verdict confirms that the State Justice Department in Guerrero (Procuraduría General de Justicia de Guerrero, PGJE) fabricated the crimes that the five indigenous men were imprisoned for and it shows that the aim of the imprisonment was to put a stop to the organised work that the OPIM is carrying out.

Likewise, this sentence discredits the statements made by governor Zeferino Torreblanca Galindo, when he said that the arrest of the colleagues from the OPIM didn’t mean that the organisation was being persecuted, only that the law was being enforced. The federal courts who are the ones that revise human rights violations announced that there is no evidence to attribute responsibility for the crime to the indigenous Me’phaa men.

We insist that in the case of the prisoners from the OPIM, none the democratic principles implicated in the division of powers were applied, the judicial branch not only refused to take a statement from the five prisoners, but also dedicated themselves to supporting the work of the State Justice Department, which did nothing but fabricate crimes and fight against the organisation’s work.

Following this verdict, we see once again that the application of the law is not the same for everyone, because still nobody has been punished for the murder of Lorenzo Fernández Ortega, the brother of Inés Fernández Ortega (who was raped by soldiers from the Mexican Army in 2002). Until this day no procedures have been carried out and it seems that Zeferino Torreblanca’s government is more concerned about imprisoning the leaders of organisations than investigating this murder.

It is also worth mentioning that according to El Sur, an Acapulco daily, the 4 prisoners that won the appeal must remain in custody until October 31, while the local judge seated in Ayutla, Alfredo Sánchez decides whether he will appeal the decision of the federal judge to release them.

More Information:

Website of the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Montaña

News Release by Amnesty International about the OPIM and indigenous rights

More Information in Spanish:

Esperarán 10 días más para salir libres los cuatro indígenas me’phaa de El Camalote (El Sur, 22/10/08)

Otorgan amparo a indígenas Me´phaa (El Universal 20/10/08)

Admite juez federal amparo para los indígenas presos de la OPIM (La Jornada, 17/10/08)

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