Raúl Hernández: In Jail for Defending the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Raúl Hernández, a member of the Me’phaa Indigenous People’s Organization (OPIM), has been detained for over two years for a crime Amnesty International believes he did not commit.  He and four other OPIM members were arrested on April 17, 2008 and charged with the murder of Alejandro Feliciano García on January 1, 2008 in the village of El Camalote, Guerrero State, in Mexico.  The other four OPIM members were released in March of this year, but Hernández remains detained as the sole suspect for the murder of García.

The next few weeks will be a vital time for Hernández as the State Attorney General’s Office will have the opportunity to recommend that the case against him is dropped.  We are asking members and activists to join us now in pressuring the State Attorney General’s Office to ensure that the charges against Hernández are dropped and that he is released immediately from detention.

The original charges against Hernández were based on questionable eyewitness evidence that appeared to be manufactured.  Efforts by the defense attorney to question the reliability of this evidence were not taken into account during the initial stages of the case.  He was actually denied an injunction because of two suspicious eyewitness accounts implicating him in the murder despite other testimonies that he was not present at the time of the crime.  Only recently—on June 30 of this year—did a federal review judge decide that the evidence against Hernández was unreliable. This judge closed the evidence submission stage of the case, and the court has asked the State Attorney General’s Office for a recommendation on what should be done with the case, so now the power to decide what happens to Hernández is in the hands of the State Attorney General’s Office.

Amnesty International believes that authorities called for the arrest of Hernández and other OPIM members to stem their human rights work on behalf of the Me’phaa indigenous communities.  It appears that the murder charges against Hernández were brought in reprisal for his legitimate activities promoting the rights of their community and exposing abuses by a local political boss (cacique) and local authorities.  This is not surprising given the repeated harassment members of OPIM have faced from local authorities.  They report being threatened, intimidated, attacked, and even murdered for their work.

Join us now to support Hernández and his work to defend the rights of the Me’phaa indigenous communities! The State Attorney General’s Office will be making their recommendation for Hernández’s case within the next few weeks, so we need to remind them now that we expect them to pursue justice by recommending that Hernández is released and that those who misused the judicial system to imprison him wrongfully are prosecuted.

You can also send a quick message of encouragement and solidarity to Raúl.

Anna Westlund, Campaign for Individuals at Risk, contributed to this post.

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