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Release of Mexican social protestors exposes abuses in the justice system

The acquittal of a group of Mexican protestors jailed for an alleged kidnapping exposes the grave misuse of the justice system to secure convictions, Amnesty International has said.Mexico's Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the 12 activists, who were convicted of kidnapping government officials and police during a protest in the town of San Salvador Atenco in 2006, should be freed because they had been denied a fair trial. The last of the activists was released late on Thursday night."This welcome move by the Supreme Court shows that state prosecutors and judges in Mexico State relied on the denial of due process as well as illegal and fabricated evidence to secure the conviction and imprisonment of the accused." said Rupert Knox , Amnesty International's Mexico researcher."However, the decision must not be the end of this issue… it should serve as a platform for the officials responsible for perpetrating this injustice to be held accountable and for the victims to receive restitution. "This is one of many cases where evidence has been interfered with and resulted in unfair trials and grave miscarriages of justice. It is time to end the impunity invariably enjoyed by those who misuse the justice system to suit vested interests." Protests broke out in San Salvador Atenco, just outside Mexico City, on 3 and 4 May 2006 after local market vendors were arrested for selling flowers without a permit.Over 200 protesters were detained, two were killed and dozens more were injured during a police crackdown on demonstrations. Several police officers were also injured and some were held temporarily captive by the protestors.Amnesty International documented a series of subsequent violations, including failure to effectively investigate serious human rights violations committed by police officers, such as torture – including sexual assault of some female detainees. Twelve members of the People's Front for the Defence of Land were sentenced to between 31 and 112 years in prison after an unfair trial for their part in the alleged kidnapping of six police officers and other public officials."It is unacceptable that a case must reach the Supreme Court before the victims can access justice," said Rupert Knox..