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Judge Frees Indigenous Activist in Chiapas

Judge Frees Indigenous Activist in Chiapas

by Hermann Bellinghausen
June 27, 2013

• He is a defender of communal lands at the Agua Azul Cascades
• Miguel Vázquez was obliged to incriminate himself in various crimes

This Wednesday, Miguel Vázquez Deara, “political prisoner” and adherent to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle from the San Sebastián Bachajón ejido, was set free in Ocosingo, Chiapas. Upon the period of time for determining his legal situation expiring, the mixed judge of first instance of the judicial district with residence in Ocosingo decreed the writ of freedom in his favor.

The same as his two other compañeros, still prisoners in Playas de Catazajá and El Amate, Vázquez Deara has been legally persecuted by authorities, the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) maintained this Tuesday, through acts whose purpose is “undermining actions for the defense of territory that the ejido has undertaken for several years.”

Vázquez Deara was detained in September 2011 based on a denunciation “fabricated by officialists (government supporters) that have interests in Agua Azul Cascades, and under torture obliged him to sign a self-incriminating statement.”

On November 22, 2012, a definitive sentence for the alleged crimes of robbery with violence and criminal association had been dictated, and he was sentenced to seven years and nine months in prison. The sentence was appealed, and after the court’s inexplicable delay of five months to send the file from Ocosingo to San Cristóbal de las Casas –whose distance apart is an hour and a half–, the magistrates of the mixed hall of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice in San Cristóbal ordered replacement of the proceedings as far as the preparatory statement, “considering that violations of his rights to adequate defense existed,” and yesterday morning the judge decided to free him.

The Frayba exemplifies the case “as one of those that reflect that in Chiapas access to the imparting of prompt, expedited and impartial justice is denied,” besides the lack of adequate defense for indigenous people, and of “the application of the law in accordance with the principle of a presumption of innocence.” In this case those who “organize in defense of land rights, self-determination and autonomy are criminalized.”

On September 26, 2011, agents assigned to the District Attorney for the Jungle Zone and the State Preventive Police detained Vázquez Deara, then a community police officer, while he was working in the city of Palenque. He has pointed out that Juan Álvaro Moreno, of the Partido Green Ecologist Party of Mexico (PVEM, its initials in Spanish), was accompanying the police. This individual belongs to the pro-government group from which the ejido owners of the Sixth “have received threats and harassment, due to their struggle in defense of their land and territory.”

Vázquez Deara was not assisted during his ministerial statement by a defender or a translator that was familiar with his language and culture, something contrary to what’s bestowed in the second constitutional article.

He says: “I remember that I went up some stairs where they were asking me who my fellow robbers are; it was like a patio, I answered in Tzeltal, saying that I did not know how to speak Spanish. The police said to me: ‘talk you little prick, we are going to prepare a beating for you.’

“They handcuffed my hands, my feet, and covered my mouth with a handkerchief and my eyes with a black rag, they undressed me completely. Afterwards they put a bag on my head, hit me in the stomach with a gun butt and also in the chest. The hit the nape of my neck with a closed fist, gave me a weapon and took photos of me. Later a police agent arrived that asked where the person shot at the gravel pit was, and they accused me of robbery of a small truck and many crimes.”

Immediately afterwards, he was obliged to sign a ministerial statement that, according to the Frayba, “became the principal evidence that self-incriminated him and served as the basis for fabricating other crimes against him that he never committed.”

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada:


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