Eleven years after three indigenous women were wrongly jailed for kidnapping six federal agents, the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) has announced it will offer them a formal and public apology.
On March 26, 2006, Jacinta Francisco, Alberta Alcántara and Teresa González were selling goods at an open-air market in Santiago Mexquititlán, Querétaro, when six agents of the now-dissolved Federal Investigation Agency (AFI) seized their goods and those of other merchants, charging they were pirated.
But when the merchants demanded that the agents show their identification badges and documentation the agents opted instead to leave town after agreeing with the merchants they would compensate them for any damages.
Five months later, the three women were arrested and paraded before before media outlets: they were being charged with kidnapping the six AFI agents, who claimed they had been held hostage by the three and other vendors at the market.
Francisco, 43 at the time and the mother of six children, was the first to be found guilty and was sentenced to 21 years and ordered to pay a fine of close to 100,000 pesos (US $8,800 at the time) in September 2006.
One month later González received the same sentence, while Alcántara was given an additional 10 months because the authorities declared she was carrying cocaine at the time of her arrest.
After the sentencing, two human rights advocacy groups spoke up on the women’s behalf. Centro Prodh took on the defense of the three while Amnesty International declared they were “prisoners of conscience” after investigating the case and concluding they had committed no crime.
The defense efforts succeeded. Francisco was released in September 2009 after spending three years in jail.
Alcántara and Gonzáles were released in April 2010 after the Supreme Court revoked their sentence and declared them innocent.
A request from the women for an apology by the PGR was rejected on the grounds that it believed its agents had acted in a proper manner.
But a federal administrative justice court later ruled that irregularities in the PGR agents’ handling of the case had caused moral and material damages to the women. The court ordered the PGR not only to apologize but to compensate them financially.
The PGR contested the ruling several times but failed to have it overturned.
The apology will be offered at a public ceremony on February 21.
Source: El Universal (sp)