Six Acteal Massacre Convicts Freed in Mexico

A Mexican court has freed six members of a paramilitary group imprisoned in the 1997 massacre of 45 indigenous residents in strife-torn Chiapas state, citing lack of evidence, a human rights group said on Thursday…Eight others convicted in the case, among them former members of the military and security forces, have been freed after serving half of their 2-year, seven-month sentences.

A Mexican court has freed six members of a paramilitary group imprisoned in the 1997 massacre of 45 indigenous residents in strife-torn Chiapas state, citing lack of evidence, a human rights group said on Thursday.

The court ratified the 35-year sentences of another 34 members of the armed group of Tzotzil Indians who attacked fellow-Tzotzil townspeople in Acteal,
killing 45 men, women and children.

The Acteal massacre was the biggest single act of violence surrounding the 1994 launch of the Zapatista rebel uprising over Indian rights in Chiapas.

Eight others convicted in the case, among them former members of the military and security forces, have been freed after serving half of their 2-year, seven-month sentences.

A local human rights group, the Frey Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center, decried the judge’s ruling in the case as proof that impunity
continued to exist in Mexico’s southernmost state.

Juan Lopez Villanueva, a lawyer for the rights center, told Reuters that the judge had freed the alleged paramilitaries on the basis that they were not directly involved with the massacre but had failed to examine their indirect involvement.

The judge did not analyze, “the real participation of the absolved, which was not direct but as co-participants that facilitated the means and the planning behind the massacre.”

The right-wing armed band that attacked Acteal villagers on Dec. 22, 1997, has been linked to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which then
ruled Mexico.

The massacre was described as an act of vengeance for the death of one of the group’s members in a clash with Zapatista rebels.

The people of Acteal, who had fled their homes and moved to the town center due to escalating violence in the countryside, had declared their neutrality in the Zapatista rebellion and were praying for peace when they were attacked.

Witnesses said military and security officials knew about the attack but failed to act to stop it. Mexico’s Attorney General has said it is still
investigating the crime, and more arrests could be forthcoming.

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]

Author:

News Service: Reuters – November 22, 2001

URL: http://www.eco.utexas.edu/faculty/Cleaver/chiapas95.html