Crime & Justice

Experts say Mexico’s AG’s office, army interfering with Ayotzinapa probe

Mexico City, Sep 29 (EFE).- A panel of experts investigating the notorious abduction and murder of 43 trainee teachers eight years ago in southern Mexico on Thursday accused federal prosecutors and the army of interfering with the probe.

The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), a team assembled by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), lamented this week’s resignation of the special prosecutor assigned to the Ayotzinapa investigation in 2019, Omar Gomez Trejo.

He quit after people in the Attorney General’s Office (FRG) – acting without consulting the prosecutor – rescinded 21 arrest warrants that he had issued, 16 of which were filed for military personnel.

Gomez Trejo, who is trusted by the families of the 43 students, had clashed on previous occasions with Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero.

The FRG said on Aug. 19 that 83 arrest warrants had been issued for army personnel, police and organized crime figures, among other suspects.

That announcement was made a day after the release of a report from an Ayotzinapa truth commission appointed by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador that deemed the mass abduction and murder a “state crime” involving local, state and federal officials.

“It’s not just his resignation. It’s why he resigned, and that’s because of improper interference with his work,” GIEI member and attorney Claudia Paz said at a press conference on Thursday, adding that other prosecutors also have resigned because “they saw their independence was being trampled on.”

On the night of Sept. 26, 2014, students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School, an all-male teachers college known for its leftist activism, were attacked in Iguala, Guerrero state, after they had commandeered buses (a traditional, largely tolerated practice) to travel to Mexico City for a protest.

Six people – including three students – were killed in the assault, 25 were injured and 43 students were abducted and presumably slain later.

The administration of then-President Enrique Peña Nieto said in 2015 that the students were killed by a local drug gang after being abducted by municipal cops acting on the orders of Iguala’s corrupt mayor, and that their bodies were incinerated at a dump in the nearby town of Cocula.

Victims’ families were immediately skeptical of that account, as was the GIEI, which concluded that the bodies could not have been disposed of in the way authorities claimed.

The press conference was held one day before the GIEI’s mandate expires, although the group of experts probing the case through an agreement involving the Mexican government, the victims’ families and the IACHR have asked for a one-month extension.

Another member of the panel of experts, Angela Buitrago, said the FGR clearly “has tried to halt the investigations, adding that orders have been given not to prosecute and orders have even been given not to hold hearings” for certain suspects.

She also said President Lopez Obrador’s orders to review National Defense Secretariat and Navy Secretariat files on the Ayotzinapa case have been met with resistance by the armed forces.

In releasing the results of a GIEI report in March, Buitrago said then that “security authorities were running two intelligence operations (on the night the abductions occurred), one tracking the actions of organized crime in the area and another (surveilling) the students.”

She said on March 28 that the official documents the team had reviewed showed conversations in which soldiers informed their superiors about the students’ movements until reaching Iguala.

After Gomez Trejo’s resignation, Lopez Obrador said he will quickly name a successor and offered assurances to those interested in seeing justice served.

“I say to the Azotzinapa youths, to the mothers, to the fathers, to have confidence that we will continue with the investigation,” the leftist president said. “I hope they believe me. We are receiving many pressures of all kinds and from many parts, but we have the firm will to do justice.”

Several high-profile arrests have been made in the case thus far, including those of Gen. Jose Rodriguez Perez, who was commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion based in Iguala at the time of the crime; and former Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam, who has been accused of covering up the abduction-murders.

Murillo Karam, however, won a stay this week against the charges of alleged abuses during his tenure. EFE

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