This article was first published in El Diario de Juárez on Tuesday 11 March 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).
Tales of Torture and Impunity in Ciudad Juárez: Judge Orders Five Accused in 2010 Car Bombing Must Be Freed
By Staff (El Diario de Juárez)
– Their Torture Documented, Human Rights Attorney Demands Reparation for Five Victims of Official Abuse; Spent more than 3 years in jail, charges now dropped
Mexico’s Federal Attorney General has withdrawn charges against five men who were detained for involvement in the detonation of a car bomb in 2010 in Ciudad Juárez.
Noé Fuentes Chavira, Rogelio Amaya Martínez, Víctor Manuel Martínez Rentería, Gustavo Martínez Rentería and Ricardo Fernández Lomelí were released last Friday after three and a half years in prison, according to attorney Diana Morales of the Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte.
Morales added that the five proved positive under the Istanbul Protocol, a manual designed to determine if a person was subjected to torture or degrading treatment.
Journalist reports establish that on being detained, they were accused of organized crime, crimes against health for marijuana possession, and of carrying arms for exclusive use by the Armed Forces. At the time, the Federal Ministry of Public Security (SSPF), headed by Genaro García Luna reported that Fuentes Chavira revealed that he had participated in the attack against the Federal Police on 15 July 2010 as an informer of La Línea. He was placed in preventive detention in the Federal Investigation Center while they investigated the evidence against him.
Morales explained that the people detained on 11 August 2010 were accused of federal crimes but not terrorism. That is to say, not for detonating the car bomb on Avenida 16 de Septiembre that caused the death of Doctor José Guillermo Ortiz Collazo, Federal Agent Ismael Valverde Solares and civilian César Gabiño Aviña, along with injuring 11 other people, among them six Federal Police agents and a camera operator for television station Canal 5. A judge in Guadalajara ordered the five be restored to freedom after receiving indication that they no longer stood accused of criminal charges.
“The Attorney General withdrew charges because we sat down to dialogue with them, letting them know that there were only two pieces of evidence against the accused: the confessions taken under torture and the words of the federal agents. When we applied the Protocol of Istanbul to these youths, one could see that their testimony was extracted under torture and yielded a document that demonstrated the officers were lying. They said the youths were detained on 12 August, but really the arrests occurred on 11 August. A document exists that proves this fact,” said the attorney.
That proof is a notice issued by the Federal Police to the agency’s juridical arm in Mexico City, stating that five people were detained on 11 August. That date was changed in the record to an arrest date of 12 August, Morales explained. During that 24 hour period the five were subjected to torture.
The attorney for the accused said that the Attorney General only had proof from the same agents that detained them, and the five youth’s confession “extracted under torture.”
“They accused them of organize crime, guns, and drugs, but they couldn’t prove any relation to the car bomb,” confirmed Morales.
The defense requested application of the Istanbul Protocol to prove torture, thereafter corroborated by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), which prompted the Attorney General to issue is recommendation number 75/2011.
After that point, the attorney said that in a meeting Mexico’s current Attorney General, Jesús Murillo Karam promised to apply other tests under the Istanbul Protocol, and if at least one test came back positive then they would all go free. All five tested positive.
“The Attorney General kept his word. He is saying that these people had nothing to do with organized crime, or with drugs, and the accusations were baseless. This means that there were no charges to pursue against them,” Morales confirmed.
She added that the Attorney General arrived at these conclusions last Thursday, and the judge freed them on Friday. The same day the five left their respective prisons.
The CDHPN spokesperson, Carlos Murillo, said that after being freed, the five met in Mexico City where they gave a press conference. Tomorrow, Wednesday, they will arrive in Juárez accompanied by their families.
The human rights attorney added that the Federal Police also abused their right to due process because it took two and a half days to deliver them to the Federal Public Prosecutor.
More than one year ago, the now-freed prisoners filed a complaint with the Federal Public Prosecutor documenting their torture. The CDHPN hopes that the federal agents who committed these crimes will be punished.
“We expect them to punish those agents. The Attorney General seems to be acting in good faith. Not only did he recognize the abuse suffered by the youths for something they did not do, but he also has the will and the obligation. Torture is a crime and the Attorney General must continue his investigation,” he added.
The people who are still under investigation for crimes of terrorism, homicide, attempted homicide, and the use of a stolen vehicle in connection with the car bombing occurring on the border in 2010 are listed in penal process 218/2012 at the Mesa I of the Sixth District Court: José Iván Contreras Lumbreras, “El Keiko”; Jaime Arturo Chávez González, “El Jimmy”; Mauro Adrián Villegas, “El Blaky” or “El Negro”; Fernando Contreras Meras, “El Barbas”; Martín Pérez Marrufo, “El Popeye” or “El Gordo”; Lorenzo Tadeo Palacios, “El Shorty” or “Shorty Dog”; Jorge Antonio Hernández, “El Chapo” or “El Chapito.”
José Antonio Acosta Hernández, alias Carlos Martínez Pérez, “El Diego” or “El Uno” or “El 10” is also listed in the criminal complaint but he will not go to trial as he is imprisoned in the United States.
Leticia Chavarría, member of the Security Committee, and friend of one of the victims who died in the explosion, said that it is important that five of the accused in this case have been freed.
“There was insufficient proof to declare them guilty, and that is very serious,” she said.
She added that if these people are innocent, and they were wrongly imprisoned, then the justice system is failing.
“For us, the most important thing is to see justice served. If they are innocent, where are the people who are really responsible,” she asked.
The CDHPN requested the Justice Department (PGR) continue its investigations so that those responsible for the crime of torture against the five wrongly accused can be punished.
Also, the Federal Police should continue to comply with the CNDH’s recommendation 75/2012 and provide integral reparation to the victims.
To guarantee non-repetition, the Mexican state must instruct its police forces and investigative units not to torture and mistreat detainees, as established by Mexico’s Constitution and the relevant international treaties.
It must also eliminate preventive detention. At the instant that somebody alleges being victim to torture, they must immediately see the Public Prosecutor, with any confession then voided. The independent experts that apply the Protocol of Istanbul must be accepted and recognised.
After the car bomb attack on 15 July 2010 – unprecedented for the border – the Federal Public Security Ministry released a communique indicating the attack was in reprisal for the arrest of Jesús Armando Acosta Guerrero, “El 35,” the leader of La Línea, a local criminal gang. “El 35” was a subordinate of Jose Antonio Acosta Hernández, “El Diego” who was second in command in La Línea and under the direct control of Juan Pablo Ledezma, “El JL,” a lieutenant of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.
The attack occurred when Federal Police agents arrived at the intersection of 16 de Septiembre and Bolivia in response to an attack on a municipal officer. First-aid responders also arrived on the scene, as did different media outlets.
A doctor from a nearby surgery, José Guillermo Ortiz Collazo, was already on the scene attending to the supposedly injured municipal police officer. As they arrived at the location, federal officers reported that a vehicle had been tailing them for blocks, so they requested backup.
At the scene, the three squad cars slewed as did a recent model green Ford Focus with license plate 853 SHF6. Two men suddenly stepped from the car, prompting the police officers to open fire.
After the shots, there was an explosion. According to the report provided by sources within Chihuahua’s Coordinated Operation, a fragmentation grenade was activated intentionally to end the lives of the police officers.
The explosion could be heard from kilometers away. Flames from the car bomb and the squad cars could be seen across the city.
Windows of houses, car windshields, sidewalk concrete, and asphalt, as well as metal from the car bomb were strewn for meters around the blast site.
The case attracted U.S. investigators with expertise in terrorist acts collaborated with Mexican authorities in the investigation of the car bomb. (Staff/El Diario)
•A car bomb exploded on 15 July 2010, at the intersection of 16 de Septiembre and Bolivia, Ciudad Juárez. The bombers used terrorist tactics.
• Dead in the blast: Doctor José Guillermo Ortiz Collazo, Federal Agent Ismael Valverde Solares and civilian César Gabiño Aviña.
• Six federal police officers and a television camera operator were injured in the blast.
• U.S. anti-terrorist experts collaborated with Mexican authorities in the investigation.
• According to the Federal Public Security Ministry, the attack was in reprisal for the arrest of the commander of La Línea, Jesús Armando Acosta Guerrero, a subordinate of “El Diego,” second in command of the group under the direct control of Juan Pablo Ledezma, “El JL”, lieutenant of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.
This article was reported in Spanish by Reporting Staff at the newspaper El Diario de Juárez, in Chihuahua, Mexico. El Diario is a daily newspaper known for hard-hitting coverage, and its journalists are always at risk. The article appeared under the title, “Libres, implicados en bombazo aquí,” available at: http://diario.mx/Local/2014-03-11_b971ab2c/libres-implicados-en-bombazo-aqui/.
Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.