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Mexico Supreme Court orders release of 12 activists jailed since 2006 [post updated]

July 1, 2010 | 11:48 am

Atenco prisoners

Mexico's Supreme Court ordered the release of 12 activists from the tiny town of San Salvador Atenco jailed since disturbances there in 2006, reports La Jornada (link in Spanish).

Members of the Atenco group known as the Popular Front in Defense of the Land had been sentenced to long prison terms for the alleged "organized kidnapping" of police officers. The Supreme Court found insufficient proof, saying charges were based on "false premises" by authorities in Mexico state, where San Salvador Atenco is located, on the outskirts of Mexico City. The court overturned the convictions and ordered the prisoners' release.

Human-rights groups in Mexico and internationally had been pressuring the Mexican government to free the Atenco prisoners since violent clashes that occurred between police and flower vendors in May 2006. Last week, the daughter of jailed Atenco leader Ignacio del Valle sought political asylum at the Venezuelan Embassy in Mexico City. America del Valle said she took the asylum step to pressure authorities to drop charges against her.

The Popular Front in Defense of the Land emerged in 2002 to resist a government plan to expropriate land in San Salvador Atenco for a new international airport. The plan was dropped after a series of large demonstrations.

[Update: Defying the Supreme Court order in the Atenco prisoners case, federal police said in a statement released Thursday afternoon that three Atenco prisoners would not be released, pending other charges. Among the men still held are Ignacio del Valle, the Atenco movement leader.]

— Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Activists from San Salvador Atenco weep upon hearing Supreme Court decision. Credit: La Jornada

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