Pascual Agustín Cruz and José Ramón Aniceto Gómez in Huauchinango prison, Puebla, Mexico, 28 March 2012. © Ricardo Ramírez Arriola
“Sometimes I have felt exasperated, at 5:30 they lock us in again – I feel sad, I get desperate – sometimes I think, when will I get my freedom”
José Ramón Aniceto Gómez and Pascual Agustín Cruz are human rights defenders from the indigenous nahuátl community of Atla, in Mexico. They have already spent more than two years in prison for a crime they did not commit.
For many years a powerful local group controlled access to running water for their own economic benefit, charging connection fees which equate to more than four months wages for many community members. Whilst acting as elected leaders of their community, José Ramón and Pascual increased access to water in people’s homes. As a result of this work, they were detained, tried and sentenced to almost 7 years in prison by Puebla state courts for stealing a car - something they hadn’t done. The case against them was brought solely in reprisal for their legitimate work to extend their community’s access to water.
The investigation into the accusations made against José Ramón and Pascual were based on fabricated evidence and their trial was unfair. Jose Ramón and Pascual’s first language is nahua yet they weren’t provided with an interpreter or a defence lawyer with knowledge of their language or culture, severely undermining their right to a fair trial. The authorities also failed to carry out an impartial investigation to establish the facts, and the judge denied their right to the presumption of innocence and equality before the law.
Two years have passed and the men remain in jail. Take action now to demand that the Mexican President ensures that the government immediately and unconditionally releases José Ramón and Pascual.