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Archive for Saturday, November 8, 2003

Mexican prosecutor plans charges in disappearances

November 8, 2003

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— Emboldened by a crucial victory this week before the country's Supreme Court, Mexico's special prosecutor for human rights violations said he soon would file a "cascade" of charges against former government officials for their alleged roles in violence against suspected leftists in the 1960s and 1970s.

Prosecutor Ignacio Carrillo Prieto said late Thursday that the first new charges would be filed Tuesday, against 10 security agents. Carrillo also said he soon would conclude his investigation into the role that former President Luis Echeverria had in the crackdown on dissidents, though he didn't say that Echeverria would be charged.

"I want to say that he was president during a period of his six-year mandate, from 1970 through 1976, when disappearances were occurring, and the peak year was in 1974," Carrillo said.

Carrillo also said his office was working with a team of forensic anthropologists from Argentina, where as many as 30,000 people disappeared in a government campaign against dissidents in the 1970s. The team has identified six sites in Mexico where clandestine graves may exist, Carrillo said, and is ready to start digging once it acquires needed equipment.

President Vicente Fox appointed Carrillo, a legal scholar, to investigate the political disappearances in November 2001, after the Mexican Human Rights Commission released a report listing 532 cases in which it said Mexican authorities had kidnapped, tortured or killed political activists. Carrillo's efforts to bring officials implicated in the cases to trial, however, had been thwarted until Wednesday, when the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that the statute of limitations didn't apply to kidnapping cases in which no bodies had been found.

"It began late because we had to have a legitimate, democratic government and we now have democracy with Fox," he said.

Fox, who won the presidency in July 2000 as the candidate of the conservative National Action Party, is the first president in 71 years who isn't a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party.

Carrillo said two of the 10 people to be charged Tuesday were Miguel Nazar Haro and Luis de la Barreda, former heads of Mexico's once-feared Federal Security Directorate, the equivalent of Mexico's FBI before it was disbanded in 1982.

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