On Aug. 21 Alberto Cervantes Juarez, first criminal court judge in Texcoco for the central Mexican state of Mexico, sentenced campesino leader Ignacio del Valle Medina to 45 years in prison for allegedly kidnapping state officials and state and federal police agents. Judge Cervantes Juarez sentenced 10 other campesino activists to 31 years, 10 months and 15 days on the same charges. He handed down the sentences in the Molino de Flores state prison in Texcoco; 500 state riot police guarded the prison to “protect” the judge. About 150 Atenco residents arrived at the prison later in the day to protest the sentences.
The 11 defendants are members of the Front of the Peoples in Defense of the Land (FPDT), a campesino movement that formed in 2001 and successfully opposed plans to build a new international airport on farmlands in and around San Salvador Atenco municipality northeast of Mexico City in Mexico state. The charges arose out of a May 3-4, 2006 confrontation between police and FPDT members which resulted in the deaths of two protesters, 209 arrests and accusations that police agents systematically beat and sexually abused prisoners. Del Valle is already serving a sentence of 67 years and six months in another case, concerning the alleged detention of state government officials during protests in February and April 2006.
Del Valle’s attorney, Barbara Zamora, called the new sentences “unjust,” especially for Del Valle, “since it was demonstrated that he was never in the place of the actions.” According to FPDT attorney Juan de Dios Hernandez Monje, “the judge himself indicated to one of the family members that he didn’t decide on the sentence but that the State of Mexico Superior Court of Justice ordered it, which demonstrates that this is an eminently political question, not a juridical one.” Many Mexican and international human rights groups and activists have signed on to a petition calling for the withdrawal of the sentences against Atenco activists; it can be accessed at:
(La Jornada, Aug. 22; Indymedia, US, Aug. 27)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 31