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Mexico

Court Absolves Soldiers in Army Killing of Suspects

The last soldiers held in the Tlataya massacre case have been released

Mexican soldiers salute General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, photo: AP/Marco Ugarte
2 years ago

MEXICO CITY — A Mexican civilian court has freed the last three soldiers accused of homicide in a 2014 incident in which at least a dozen suspects were allegedly executed after they surrendered.

The federal Attorney General’s Office emailed a news release at 11 p.m. Friday saying the three were absolved of charges of homicide, cover-up and alteration of evidence for lack of evidence.

The army reported in June 2014 that 22 presumed criminals had died in a clash with the army at a warehouse in the town of Tlatlaya west of Mexico City. It said only one soldier was wounded.

But questions emerged when The Associated Press found that evidence at the site didn’t match the army account of a clash with drug suspects. There was little sign of a long gunbattle. Instead, the walls showed a repeated pattern of one or two closely placed bullet holes surrounded by spattered blood, giving the appearance that some of those killed had been standing against a wall and shot at about chest level.

The government’s Human Rights Commission later reported that its investigation determined that at least 12 and probably 15 people had been executed at the warehouse.

Three women who survived came forward to say that agents of the Mexico State prosecutor’s office had tortured them to support the army’s version.

Juan Velázquez, an attorney who advised the families of the soldiers who were charged, insisted there was no massacre and said the story was part of an effort to discredit the military. “All that story of the execution of Tlatlaya was an invention,” he said in an interview.

Seven soldiers were detained and charged in both military and civilian courts. A civilian judge soon threw out charges against four of the soldiers, and the new ruling clears the other three.

In October, a military court acquitted six of the seven soldiers charged with breach of discipline in the case, though the ruling was not made public until March, when it was obtained by a human rights organization. One soldier was convicted of disobeying orders and received a one-year sentence. He has been released.

EDUARDO CASTILLO

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