Members of Fuerza Civil implicated in disappearing victims. Members of Fuerza Civil implicated in disappearing victims.

Police abuse stories at Veracruz hearing

Officers tortured, sexually abused and disappeared victims, witness testifies

Graphic and disturbing testimonies from the survivors and witnesses of police abuse in the state of Veracruz were presented yesterday during a hearing into forced disappearances during the administration of former governor Javier Duarte.

The state government last week formally accused four high-ranking former security officials and 15 police officers of involvement in the forced disappearances of 15 people during a seven-month period in 2013.

At yesterday’s hearing, the state Attorney General’s office presented a request that their cases proceed to trial, and after a marathon session that lasted almost 13 hours the presiding judge upheld the request early this morning.

Some of the most disturbing evidence presented at the hearing came from a former state police officer deployed in the capital city of Xalapa, where several of the disappearances occurred.

The witness, whose identity was withheld, testified about the case of a 17-year-old female victim who was forced into a police car after she was found to be carrying drugs in a backpack.

The officers then placed a cover over the vehicle before committing the first serious crime against her.

“. . . Several of my colleagues passed her around to sexually abuse her one at a time,” the witness said.

The girl and a 16-year-old boy who was with her at the time and was also detained were not seen again after June 13, 2013.

He added that the commander of the unit he belonged to had been complicit in similar conduct with men and transvestites who had also been detained by police in the state capital.

The former officer explained that while he worked for the state police’s reaction group in Xalapa— which was headed by Manuel Alejandro Trujillo Rivera — the unit would frequently detain halcones, or lookouts, and small-time drug dealers allegedly linked to criminal gangs such as the Zetas.

After suspected criminals were arrested, the witness said, Trujillo would personally check their telephones and if any information that compromised the state police was found, they would be transported to one of several locations the group used to interrogate victims.

“The detainees were kicked, hit with boards [and] given electric shocks . . . while they were handcuffed and their faces were covered with t-shirts,” he said.

“Then they handed them over to los fieles [the loyal ones] to disappear them,” the witness explained, referring to a group of officers who belonged to the state’s elite Civil Force.

The witness also said that Trujillo would sometimes call the now-detained former state police chief Arturo Bermúdez Zurita to directly ask for instructions about what to do with the people they had arrested.

The same witness also said that police brutality and abuse extended to the family members of disappearance victims.

Former Veracruz police officer José Ulises Martínez Fernández, 30, disappeared on April 30, 2013.

Two days later, the witness said, police contacted the man’s partner using the victim’s telephone and arranged to meet her in a convenience store in the state capital.

However, before she and her 10-month-old baby arrived at the store they were intercepted by police and taken to a location where the woman was raped by seven police officers and the baby was tortured through the application of electric shocks.

Trujillo was one of the men involved in the sexual assault, the witness said.

The former police commander as well as 11 other former security officials and police officers are also accused of involvement in the 15 disappearances.

However, unlike those ordered to stand trial today, they have not yet been detained and are considered fugitives from justice. One of them is another former state police chief, José Nabor Nava Holguín.

All but one of the 15 victims of the forced disappearances were aged in their teens or 20s at the time of their arrest.

According to the state Attorney General’s office, police and officials committed the crimes with total impunity and with the consent of the highest authorities in Javier Duarte’s government.

Source: Milenio (sp), e-consulta (sp), El Universal (sp)

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