One of Mexico’s best known self-defense group leaders is about to be released from jail after spending a year locked up on weapons charges.
The liberation of José Manuel Mireles Valverde, founder of one of the first vigilante groups in Michoacán, is imminent after the Attorney General withdrew all charges against him yesterday.
Mireles is a medical doctor and leader of a paramilitary group that formed in 2013 to fight the Caballeros Templarios cartel. On June 27, 2014 he was arrested in Lázaro Cárdenas for violating weapons laws. At the time the government was urging the civilian defense groups to lay down their arms and join in the formation of a federally-sanctioned rural police force, a move that Mireles opposed.
The government had warned it would arrest armed civilians who did not join the new police.
Attorney General Arely González decided not to continue with a revision process started against an injunction sought by Mireles’ lawyer, meaning, in effect, that the accusations are withdrawn, also there are conflicting reports about what it actually does mean.
The Attorney General’s office said the decision also means that the judge overseeing the case against Mireles would be able to issue an order for his liberation within 72 hours. First, however, Mireles’ lawyers must make a formal release request that has to be approved by the local court, as the Attorney General has no authority over actually freeing people in custody.
Forty-five self-defense group members arrested with Mireles will also be released, while their lawyers will continue to work for the liberation of another 383 who have been in prison for over two years.
“My brother and his followers will have their freedom and this will end the abuse committed against citizens who organized themselves to defend their rights and property, which the authorities were unable to do,” said Mireles’ sister, Virginia Mireles Valverde, who was invited to meet personally with the Attorney General to receive the news.
Mireles appears in a documentary that opened this week in theaters in Mexico and the U.S. Cartel Land relates how the self-defense groups came about and tells of their fight against the Caballeros Templarios.