MEXICO: Further prisoner releases delayed

Acteal Released Men The release and resettlement of The Innocent of Acteal group of prisoners has suffered more delays. In mid-August, twenty of the prisoners (including the seven men pictured) were released by order of the Mexican Supreme Court.

However, no further prisoners have since been freed despite the Supreme Court ruling that 55 prisoners should be released. The Court found that they had been unjustly imprisoned in Mexico for over eleven years on charges of participating in the Acteal “massacre” in Devember 1997. It appears that the delay in further releases is due to the fact that the Supreme Court decision was a majority ruling (4-1) and that the the dissenting judge is from Chiapas state where he wields considerable influence. Lawyers for the men believe that further releases may be delayed until November or December.

The delay is a further disappointment to the remaining prisoners whose hopes had been raised by the Supreme Court and who now fear that the decision of the Supreme Court is being negated by local opposition.


The future of those men who have been released is very uncertain. They are currently living in rented accommodation provided by the Chiapas state government in Tuxtla Gutierrez (over 100km away from their homes) while they await resettlement on land that state authorities have promised them.

Seven former prisoners are living together in a rented building which they occupy with their wives, children and, in some cases, grandchildren. The families share windowless, sparsely furnished rooms with bare cement floors. Government food rations sustain them. They still do not have their official prison release papers, nor do they have any form of identification. So they are basically prisoners outside the prison walls, since the government will not allow them to return home nor have they resettled them.

Government officials insist that the Acteal prisoners must relocate to new communities because they fear violent clashes will flare between them and their old rivals. These fears have been generated by threats made against the men who have stated plainly that have no desire for conflict or revenge. (Local sources + Compass Direct)

Church in Chains has written again to the Mexican Embassy in Dublin expressing alarm that the decision of the Supreme Court to release 55 prisoners is being frustrated.