International human rights experts have determined that the arrest and incarceration of community police leader Nestora Salgado was illegal.
Salgado moved back to Mexico in 2012 from Seattle, Washington, and became the head of a community police force in her home state of Guerrero.
She was arrested in August 2013 after individuals who had been detained by her force alleged they had been kidnapped. A federal judge rejected the charges against her, but related charges in a state court have kept her in jail.
In a decision released this week, the five members of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined that her arrest was arbitrary, adding that Mexican authorities should not only free Salgado, but offer her compensation for violating her rights.
The UN panel, composed of international experts in human rights, found that Salgado, who holds both U.S. and Mexican citizenship, was denied contact with her relatives and lawyers for nearly a year, and that medical care and access to clean water were denied to her while in prison.
Although the UN’s ruling is not binding in Mexico, it could increase pressure to release her.
“[This resolution] is an important means of political pressure. An independent, unbiased panel has determined that the she was illegally arrested. I consider this an important step forward,” said Thomas Antkowiak, director of the human rights clinic at Seattle University that took Salgado’s case to the UN.
“Salgado has suffered more than two years of illegal imprisonment, without any evidence against her nor any [condemnatory] trial. She is a political prisoner,” added Antkowiak.
The government of the state of Guerrero has yet to make a statement in response, although it is rare for authorities to discuss open cases. Despite the usual custom, the state governor at the time, Rogelio Ortega, spoke in favor of her release last April.
When Salgado returned to Mexico she went back to her home town of Olinalá, where she found residents were fed up with the criminal activities of the gang known as Los Rojos. Before long the former waitress and housekeeper was leading a 156-member community police force.
Source: Diario de México (sp)