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Mexico Must Pay Indigenous Woman Wrongly Jailed for Kidnapping Federal Agents

A high court recently ordered the Mexican government to pay damages and to issue a public apology for illegally imprisoning an indigenous woman.
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In late May, for the first time in Mexican legal history, a high court ordered the government to pay damages and to issue a public apology for illegally imprisoning an indigenous woman.

However, the Attorney General is maneuvering to appeal the fines according to sources but until that happens, the Mexican Government has the obligation to follow the judicial order.

On May 28th, the Federal Fiscal and Administrative Tribunal of Mexico ordered the Attorney General to compensate Jacinta Francisco Marcial for illegally arresting and imprisoning her in 2006.

"Their recognition of innocence doesn't represent justice," asserted Mario Patron, Assistant Director of the Miguel Agostin Human Rights Center (MAHRC) which represented Marcial and other defendants in court. "There is too much impunity in this country. We need to hold all the agents and the public prosecutor responsible."

"This sentence doesn't just apply to Jacinta," said Federal Court spokesperson Guillermo Chao at a press event after the announcement. "It will potentially apply to all people who are wrongly incarcerated and decide to issue a formal complaint with our court."

The formal complaint of Marcial and two other indigenous women stem from a series of events from 2006.

Marcial and two other indigenous women, who were street vendors in the town of Santiago, were arrested by police for allegedly kidnapping six federal agents during a public disturbance in the same town in August of 2006.

Marcial has been a soft drinks and ice cream vendor since she was seven years old. She is Otomi, a mother of six children and according to information gathered by Amnesty International, during the incident in 2006 Marcial had been attending mass in a local church. At her trial, Marcial, who only understands a little Spanish, was tried without the help of an interpreter.

She then signed papers that she did not fully understand and only found out about the exact charges when she arrived in prison. Two other indigenous women, Alberta Alcantara and Teresa Gonzalez, were also arrested and later convicted of the same charges in connection with the incident in Santiago.

Human rights organizations and indigenous advocates expressed outrage at the arrests and in September of 2009, after Marcial had been in prison for three years, Mexico's Supreme Court ordered her release and then the release of the other indigenous women the following April.

However, to the surprise of many observers, in late May of this year human rights lawyers with the MAHRC were able to get the government to concede its wrongdoing in the arrest of Marcial. By mid-June, the attorneys of the MAHRC were notified of the Supreme Court order for compensation and apology.

According to Marcial's attorney, Luis Tapia Olivares of the HRCF, his team is worried that the Attorney General will appeal the court order and seek a revision as the AG has already done in connection with the orders to compensate and apologize to the other indigenous defendants. Olivares noted that he has not yet heard of the official appeal.

Courtesy Human Rights Collective Foundation

Jacinta and her husband Don Guillermo