Mexico: court frees seven convicted in 1997 massacre

Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) issued an order on Feb. 1 for the release of seven indigenous Tzotziles who had been convicted of homicide and other crimes in the December 1997 massacre of 45 indigenous campesinos in Acteal, a village in Chenalh├│ municipality in the southeastern state of Chiapas. The court, which has overturned the convictions of 45 others in the case since August 2009, ruled that the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) had violated the defendants’ due process rights by influencing witnesses, who had been shown an album of photographs.

The prisoners were released from the El Amate prison in Cintalapa municipality, Chiapas, on the evening of Feb. 1. Although they come from Chenalh├│ municipality, the released prisoners in the Acteal case have all been relocated to the city of Villafores for their own safety. (La Jornada, Mexico, Feb. 2)

Some observers believe that the main responsibility for the massacre lies with the Mexican government and then-president Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Le├│n (1994-2000). Zedillo, who is teaching at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, currently faces a $50 million US federal civil suit filed in Hartford in September on behalf of 10 unnamed Acteal survivors. Zedillo claims immunity as a former president. During a press conference in Mexico City on Feb. 9, Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Espinosa refused to comment on reports that the Mexican government had asked the US court to support Zedillo’s claim. This “concerns a trial that’s in progress, on which we can’t give public information,” Espinosa said. But the Mexican government “will provide all the assistance required,” she added, “as in the case of any Mexican national.” (Reforma, Mexico, Feb. 9, via Terra.com; La Cr├│nica de Hoy, Mexico, Feb. 10)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 12.

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