Fabrication of Crimes: The Tragic Reality of Indigenous Tseltales and Ch’ol in Chiapas

On Tuesday, March 5, in front of the Supreme Court of the State of Chiapas, organizations demonstrated demanding an end to the criminalization of land defenders, who, the organizations argue, have had crimes systematically fabricated against them. The organizations demanded the immediate freedom of José Gómez, Zapatista political prisoner, and five land defenders from San Juan Cancuc.

José Díaz Gómez, Indigenous Ch’ol and Zapatista Support Base, is imprisoned in CERSS No. 17 in the municipality of Catazajá, Chiapas. “They fabricated a crime against José as payback for his participation in the Zapatista movement,” explained the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center (FRAYBA), in a communique. Díaz Gómez has been held in preventative detention since November 25, 2022.  

According to the organization, his process has been maliciously postponed. The judge has approved the extension of the investigation three times to benefit the public prosecutor, regardless of no further investigation having been carried out.

“These delays are part of a pattern where prosecutors and judges extend these processes, and the consequences are extended imprisonment without sentences, all for simulation. During this time, his public defender has been changed multiple times, violating his right to a continuous and diligent defense,” denounced FRAYBA.

FRAYBA has solicited on three occasions his release from preventative detention, which would allow him to carry out his legal process in freedom, to mitigate negative effects on his health and the economy of his family. However, the response has been negative on each occasion.

The Five Land Defenders of Cancuc

At the demonstration, the organizations also denounced the criminalization of Manual Sántiz Cruz, Agustín Pérez Domínguez, Juan Velasco Aguilar, Agustín Pérez Velasco, and Martín Pérez Domínguez, Tseltal land defenders.

The first three were arrested by municipal and state police, the national guard, and elements of the Mexican military on May 29, 2022 in the municipality of Cancuc.

Afterwards, they were handed over to the Specialized Prosecutor of Indigenous Justice in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, “who held the three incommunicado and disappeared for more than 24 hours. This prosecutor fabricated a completely different version of the arrest, stating that the three had been detained on May 30—that is to say a day afterwards—in San Cristobal de las Casas for carrying drugs,” explains FRAYBA in the communique.

During their detention, they fabricated evidence to accuse them of a second crime that they didn’t commit, obtaining arrest warrants on that charge. After being freed for the first crime, they were arrested again after the opening of a second fabricated investigation. They were taken directly to CERSS No. 5. This situation “follows a pattern documented in dozens of cases by FRAYBA,” explains the organization.

On June 1, 2022, families of the three detained and two witnesses, accompanied by staff from FRAYBA and an international human rights organization, went to the control court for the first hearing against the three land defenders. Outside the CERSS, the police arrived and arrested the two witnesses, Martín Pérez Domínguez and Agustín Pérez Velasco, adding them to the list of criminalized and imprisoned land defenders.

Throughout the trial, FRAYBA has denounced the different human rights violations like the arbitrary detentions, illegal deprivation of freedom, inadequate translation during the trial, and the admission of evidence clearly deficient for the court.

“Unfortunately, the process has been a bureaucratic labyrinth that has prolonged the preventative detention for almost three years,” says FRAYBA.

The organization calls on the “judges to listen to the denunciations of the victims of human rights violations, and that they carefully study the fabricated evidence to ascertain its inconsistencies, and not to be part of the undue prolongation of preventative detention that is another form of punishment for the exercise of political rights.”

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