On 21 February, three Hñähñú indigenous women received a public apology from the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) after unjustly spending more than three years in prison.
Jacinta Francisco Marcial, Alberta Alcantara Juan and Teresa Gonzalez Cornelio sold fresh water in the markets of Queretaro. In 2006, they were arrested after being accused of having “deprived six PGR agents of their freedom during a row that the prosecution officials had with informal traders three months earlier, after police attempted to dispossess them of merchandise, in a operation for which they lacked authorization.”
Jacinta, mother of six, was “sentenced to 21 years in prison, with a trial in which no evidence was ever presented against her and in which the indigenous Otomi lacked the assistance of an interpreter”, which is a violation of human rights “given that at the time of the criminal proceedings Jacinta hardly understood Spanish.”
Her defense showed that Jacinta was credited with a fabricated statement, written in Spanish, which she could not have made because of her lack of understanding of the language at the time. It was also proved that it was physically impossible for Jacinta, along with the other two indigenous women, to deprive six agents of their freedom.
For these reasons, the “Unitary Court reversed the sentence of 21 years in prison and ordered to reopen the trial against the indigenous Otomi, with which the PGR decided not to take any further action against her and Jacinta was able to regain her freedom.”
Animal Politico magazine explains that “since May 2014, the Federal Court of Fiscal and Administrative Justice (TFJFA in its Spanish acronym) ruled in favor of the demand for moral and material reparation, brought by Jacinta Francisco Marcial and the other two indigenous women against the PGR” and that the “failure of the TFJFA establishes that the PGR did its work badly so that Jacinta must receive damages.” The same magazine states that “even though Jacinta had regained her freedom since 2009, her innocence has not yet been officially recognized and the perpetrators of the abuses committed against her have not been punished.”
For the Prodh Center, the importance of this act is that it is the first event of this type that responds to a ruling issued by national courts (others have been ordered by international organizations), while at the same time putting the struggle of these women for their own dignity center stage and setting a precedent for other victims.
For more information in Spanish:
Para Jacinta, Alberta y Teresa, una disculpa “cosmética” (Proceso, a 27 de febrero de 2017)
La PGR ofrecerá una disculpa pública a tres indígenas que fueron encarceladas (Animal Politico, a 21 de febrero de 2017)
Disculpa pública de PGR a tres indígenas detenidas injustamente (La Jornada, a 22 de febrero de 2017)