Mexico: two Otomí women sentenced for “kidnapping”

On Feb. 19 Fourth District judge Rodolfo Pedraza Longhi, in Querétaro, capital of the central Mexican state of Querétaro, upheld a 21-year prison sentence for two indigenous women charged with kidnapping six agents of the now-defunct Federal Investigation Agency (AFI). The two women—Teresa González Cornelio and Alberta Alcántara Juan—had been charged in connection with a March 26, 2006 incident in the market in Santiago Mexquititlán community, Amealco de Bonfil municipality, which the AFI agents raided in an unsuccessful search for pirated DVDs.

Some vendors reportedly held the federal agents until they agreed to pay for damage they had done in the raid. Prosecutors claimed that González and Alcántara were among the vendors that detained the agents. Judge Pedraza Longhi ruled against the defendants on the kidnapping charge and also convicted Alcántara of possessing 400 grams of cocaine.

The defendants’ lawyers, from the Miguel Agustín Pro Human Rights Center and the Fray Jacobo Daciano Human Rights Center, filed an appeal on Feb. 25. They said that the agents contradicted each other in court and that the only evidence against González and Alcántara was a newspaper photograph showing them near the agents at the time of the incident. The lawyers already succeeded in reopening the case once, in April 2009, when a judge ruled that the evidence was contradictory and required prosecutors to present the case again. In September the prosecutors decided to drop charges against a third woman, Jacinta Francisco Marcial, who was arrested with González and Alcántara.

The British-based human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) has declared González and Alcántara prisoners of conscience. On Feb. 12 AI Mexico researcher Rupert Knox charged that the two women had been “framed as a convenient target because of their marginal status in society as poor indigenous women.” They are members of the Ñañú ethnic group, a part of the Otomí group, which is mainly based in Querétaro and Hidalgo. According to Knox, the defendants didn’t have access to an interpreter during the judicial procedures and weren’t informed of their legal rights. They have been held in jail since their arrest in August 2006. (La Jornada, Mexico, Feb. 23, 25; Latin American Herald Tribune, Feb. 24 from EFE; AI, Feb. 12)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Feb. 28

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