Supreme Court frees prisoners based on ‘illegal acts’ by prosecutors

The Supreme Court voted 4-1 to free 20 men imprisoned for more than 11 years for a massacre in the village of Acteal, Chiapas in 1997.  Another 30 are expected to be freed soon. Citing severe misconduct by the prosecutors and lower court judges, including the fabrication of evidence and testimony, the Court ruled that the accused were denied the constitutional rights of due process and an adequate defense. The killing of 45 Tzotzil Indians, mostly women and children, by assailants from a rival community and the railroaded prosecutions by the Zedillo government during the Zapatista rebellion has long been an open wound.  The Court pointedly did not declare the innocence of those freed. Columnist Héctor Aguilar Camín wrote, “Acteal continues to be a hieroglyphic. Beyond the legal aspects, it is a problem of truth: what happened during the massacre, and who were the killers…. The ruling, however, could have enormous consequences in the correction of the Mexican justice system in all the cases where guilt is fabricated, a lamentable specialty of our justice system.” Emilio Chuayffet, Government Secretary under Zedillo (and who was fired after the massacre), returns to Congress in September as a PRI deputy from the State of Mexico.  (Reforma 8/12, Universal 8/12, Milenio 8/13, NY Times 8/12)

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