Only a few days ago we were happy to share the wonderful news that Raúl Hernández, an indigenous rights leader and prisoner of conscience, had been released from prison after two years of struggle. Unfortunately, Hernández and other indigenous rights activists have been suffering serious threats and harrassment for more than a week.
The daughter of Inés Fernández, a fellow member of the Me’phaa Indigenous People’s Organization (Organización del Pueblo Indigena Me’phaa, OPIM), was threatened by two men on August 28th. The men threatened her family with death and mentioned Raúl Hernández, suggesting a connection between his release and their threats. Two days later, Álvaro Ramírez Concepcíon, coordinator of the Organization of the Future of the Mixteco Indigenous People (Organización para el Futuro del Pueblo Mixteco, OFPM), was shot and seriously wounded by a group of men while he worked on a plot of land near Juquila, in Ayutala municipality in Mexico. His wounds have required him to continue to stay in the hospital under medical supervision. The attackers have not been identified, nor brought to justice. Other activists from both OPIM and OFPM have been threatened as well.
Last week, we asked you to take action for inidgenous human rights defender Raúl Hernández. Many thanks to all who took action! Unfortunately, at his hearing on Friday, the State Attorney General’s Office of Guerrero upheld murder charges against Raúl, despite unreliable and fabricated evidence. The judge presiding over the case is expected to decide on his innocence or guilt within days.
Raúl, a member of the Me’phaa Indigenous People’s Organization (OPIM) in Guerrero State, Mexico, was arrested along with several other OPIM members in April of 2008 and accused of murdering Alejandro Feliciano García. Amnesty International believes that their arrests were prompted by their human rights work in defense of the Me’phaa Indigenous Peoples. The original charges against Raúl were based on questionable eyewitness accounts, and evidence presented in his defense was disregarded. Fortunately, on June 30 of this year, the judge presiding over his case decided that the evidence against him was unreliable and requested that the Guerrero State Attorney General issue a recommendation on the case.
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.