MEXICO: Supreme Court orders release of 55 Acteal prisoners

Mexico Supreme Court The Mexican Supreme Court has ordered the release of 55 of The Innocent of Acteal group of prisoners.

In a majority vote of 4-1, the Court determined there were too many questionable accusations, investigative errors, false charges, and anomalies in their cases, so they are being released after almost 12 years of imprisonment.

One of the suspect pieces of evidence introduced by prosecutors was a detailed list of the perpetrators of the massacre supposedly prepared by Agustín Arias Díaz, a local resident. But the list was written in Spanish, a language he barely spoke, and he later acknowledged that he was handed the list by the authorities.

26 prisoners will be released from the Amáte Prison today while another 29 prisoners will be processed for release next week, making a total of 55 to be released. The remaining 26 will have their cases and charges reviewed, to assure that their cases were fairly tried and justice was applied.

The verdict has sharply divided public opinion in Chiapas. This week, there have been demonstrations in Chiapas against the Supreme Court decision. There are concerns that those who have opposed this release will not accept the Supreme Court decision and try to cause problems or elevate tensions. Major concerns are the false accusations being spread by some people, as well as possibly tense situations when the prisoners return home.

Arturo Farela, who has argued the innocence of those tried, warned of possible tensions if the men return to their home town of Chenalho. “The social fabric of Chenalho is weak and the government needs to investigate and punish the people who are truly responsible but also those who ordered the killings,” (Information from local sources with additional detail from New York Times and Associated Press)

David Turner, National Co-ordinator of Church in Chains, who visited the Acteal prisoners and their families in Mexico welcomed the Supreme Court decision. “This is a great day for the innocent men and their families as justice has finally been done. These families have suffered a great injustice over the past 12 years. Our hope and prayer is that the innocent men will be able to pick up the threads of their lives”.