The Mixed Collegiate Regional Chamber of San Cristóbal de Las Casas of the Judiciary of the State of Chiapas held the hearing of appeal proceedings on August 22 for the case of Manuel Santiz Cruz, Agustín Pérez Domínguez, Juan Velasco Aguilar, Martín Pérez Domínguez and Agustin Perez Velasco.
The five Tseltal defenders from San Juan Cancuc have been deprived of their freedom since May 29th, 2022; at the State Social Reintegration Center for Sentenced Persons (CERSS) No. 5, located in that city of the Highlands.
Therefore, the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) presented to the Court the violations committed during the trial of fabricating culprits [framing]. Thus, the lack of evidence and contradictions resulting from a montage of evidence were demonstrated and that despite this the first instance judge decided to condemn them.
Frayba indicated that the Court also heard the innumerable violations of human rights, due process and the presumption of innocence that the first instance judges did not take into account to perpetuate this process of repression.
Likewise, it emphasized that magistrates Julio César Pascacio Pérez, Pedro Raúl López Hernández and Josué Alejandro Utrilla Bravo have until August 25th to decide on the appeal. In other words, they have a new opportunity to issue an acquittal, which allows the Tseltal defenders to recover their freedom and their life project together with their families.
”The five Tseltal defenders have walked in different processes to defend land and territory, as well as against militarization”, the Center for Human Rights emphasized .
It also recalled that on May 29th, 2022, in a joint operation between the National Guard (GN), the Mexican Army and the Municipal Police, three of the defenders were illegally detained in San Juan Cancuc, to later be disappeared for more than 24 hours.
As if that were not enough, they were accused by the Indigenous Justice Prosecutor of having been arrested in flagrante delicto, for drug possession in San Cristóbal, on a date after their actual arrest.
Later, the three defenders were charged, prosecuted and convicted of a murder for which they are not responsible, a fabricated crime for which they are fighting for their freedom.
Frayba added that, due to the accusation for crimes against health, two members of the community came to testify to the falsehood about the version of the arrest. As a reaction, the Indigenous Prosecutor’s Office decided to arrest them and charge them with the aforementioned homicide.
”This simulation only highlights the perversion of the system in which authorities from the three levels of government are linked to stigmatize indigenous defenders in Chiapas. Unfortunately, it is not an isolated case, but we have observed that it is a pattern that must be dismantled”, Frayba pointed out.
For these reasons, they made an urgent call to individuals, organizations and solidarity groups to urge the State Judiciary to issue a sentence that is acquittal, progressive, impartial, in accordance with law and international human rights standards and with an intercultural perspective.
Translated by Schools for Chiapas.