Mexican Indigenous Rights Leader Finally Released!

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Last month, we asked you to take action for Mexican inidgenous human rights defender Raúl Hernández.  We are thrilled to report that after two years in Guerrero state prison on fabricated  charges Raúl was finally released!  A big thank you to all who took action!

We are now calling for an investigation into his unfounded prosecution and for him to be fully compensated for his unfair imprisonment.

Amnesty has been advocating on behalf of Raúl since 2008 when he was arrested and accused of the murder of Alejandro Feliciano García. However, eyewitness statements demonstrating that Raúl Hernández was not present when the murder took place were not taken into account.

Later, during evidential proceedings, the state court judge carried out a crime scene inspection which confirmed that evidence by witnesses who claimed that Raúl Hernández was present during the murder were baseless.

We believe the case against Raúl Hernández was a reprisal by local authorities for his legitimate activities promoting indigenous rights with the Me’phaa Indigenous peoples’ Organization (Organización del Pueblo Indígena Me’phaa ,OPIM) and for highlighting abuses committed by local caciques (political bosses), military personnel and authorities.

Mexican authorities have frequently manipulated the justice system to punish those people who promote respect for the rights of marginalized communities and raise their voices to demand their rights. The unfair and prolonged detention of Raúl Hernandez is emblematic of the systematic persecution of members of the OPIM in Guerrero state and the regular threats and attacks suffered by human rights defenders in Mexico.

We are urging the Mexican government to develop an effective protection program 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.

UPDATE: Raúl Hernández Will be Prosecuted

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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.

After the judge’s decision, we will be providing an update and requesting further action. Meanwhile, you can continue to push for justice for Raúl, and you can read the press release about Friday’s hearing.

One Final Push to Protect Raúl Hernández from Unfair Murder Charges!

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Raul HernandezA decision will soon be reached regarding unsubstantiated murder charges against human rights defender Raúl Hernández. His final hearing was today, Friday, August 6, and we expect that the court will make a final decision on his case within two weeks of the hearing. Please take action now to ensure that he is not wrongfully convicted of murder!

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.

Amnesty International has been advocating on behalf of Raúl since 2008, and we believe that right now is a strategic time to make a final push for his freedom. We have a great opportunity to contact the Attorney General and pressure him to recommend that charges against Raúl are dropped.  He has the power to influence the outcome of the case, and therefore to protect Raúl from spending the rest of his life in prison. Please take action on behalf of Raúl today!

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

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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.