Mexico: Amnesty welcomes the release of prisoner of conscience Raul Hernandez
Amnesty International welcomes the release of prisoner of conscience Raúl Hernández who was imprisoned for more than two years in Guerrero state, southern Mexico on fabricated criminal charges.
Following his acquittal by a Guerrero state court judge on 27 August, Amnesty has called for an investigation into his unfounded prosecution and for him to be fully compensated for his unfair imprisonment.
Raúl Hernández was arrested and accused of the murder of Alejandro Feliciano García on 1 January 2008 in the community of El Camalote, Guerrero state. Eyewitness statements which established that Raúl Hernández was not present when the murder took place were not taken into account. Amnesty has campaigned for his release since November 2009, when he was adopted as a prisoner of conscience.
During evidential proceedings, the state court judge carried out a crime scene inspection which confirmed that the evidence to suggest that Raúl Hernández was present during the murder was baseless.
Amnesty International’s UK Director, Kate Allen said:
“We’re delighted by the court’s recent decision to immediately release Raúl Hernández. We believe this was the correct decision as Raúl’s arrest, detention and trial was a form of retaliation by the local authorities for the work he carried out to promote the rights of Indigenous peoples; and because Raúl bravely threw a spotlight on the abuses committed by local senior political figures, military personnel and authorities.
“The unfair and prolonged detention of Raúl Hernández is emblematic of the systematic persecution of Indigenous rights activists in Guerrero state and the regular threats and attacks suffered by human rights defenders in Mexico.”
Amnesty International is urging the Mexico government to urgently develop an effective protection programme for human rights defenders.
The case of Raúl Hernández illustrates the vulnerability of human rights defenders in Mexico. Not only are they victims of unlawful detentions and imprisonment on unfounded charges, but they also face harassment, intimidation, threats and even killings.
Raúl Hernández is a member of the Me’phaa Indigenous peoples’ Organisation (Organización del Pueblo Indígena Me’phaa or OPIM. Members of OPIM have regularly face threats and attacks for their work.
On 17 April 2008 Manuel Cruz, Orlando Manzanarez, Natalio Ortega, Romualdo Santiago and Raúl Hernández were detained on charges of killing Alejandro Feliciano García on 1 January 2008. The five members of the OPIM were arrested by the army at a military checkpoint. Four of them were later released after a federal judicial review. Arrest warrants were also issued against ten other members of the OPIM in connection with the killing, but were not enforced.
The federal review judge refused to dismiss the case against Raúl Hernández, arguing that two witnesses had testified to his presence during the crime. However, the judge did not take into account other eyewitness statements that he was not present. The case was returned to the state courts where the defence lawyers secured further evidential hearings, one of which confirmed that the prosecution’s eyewitnesses had provided unreliable testimony. The not guilty verdict on 27 August resulted in Raúl Hernández’s acquittal and his immediate release from custody.