Sat, Sep 19, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Mexico releases indigenous female ‘kidnapper’

AP , MEXICO CITY

An indigenous market vendor who was wrongly convicted of kidnapping and spent three years in prison deserves compensation for the time she was locked away, Amnesty International said on Thursday.

“Nothing will replace the three years she lost, but it is vital that those responsible for this injustice be brought before justice, and that she receive an appropriate compensation,” said Kerrie Howard, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Americas.

Jacinta Francisco Marcial, whose kidnapping conviction sparked an international protest, walked out of prison on Wednesday after authorities decided not to contest an appeal of her 21-year sentence.

Mexico’s Indians, many of whom don’t speak Spanish, have a right to an interpreter in legal proceedings under current law, but none was apparently provided to Marcial, an Otomi Indian, during the initial stages of her trial.

“I didn’t even know what kidnapping was,” Marcial, 46, told reporters on Thursday, speaking in a Spanish that she largely learned while in prison. “I couldn’t stop crying.”

Her lawyer Andres Diaz, who works with the Mexico-based Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez human rights center, said her legal team is considering bringing legal action against the government. Activists said her case was symbolic of the poor treatment of Mexico’s 6 million speakers of indigenous languages.

Interior Secretary Fernando Gomez-Mont said he was pleased that prosecutors acknowledged their mistakes, but he did not know if Marcial would receive compensation.

“I don’t know what process will be followed in the case of Jacinta,” Gomez-Mont said at a news conference. “I celebrate that authorities were sensible, that they did not play the complacent game of ‘well, now that it’s done, let’s see how far we can go,’ and that there is capacity for rectification in some cases.”

Amnesty International is demanding new trials for two other women convicted in the 2006 case, which began when federal agents raided a street market in the central state of Queretaro to confiscate pirated goods. During the incident, angry vendors surrounded the agents and briefly held them hostage, demanding to be paid for the loss of their merchandise. Marcial denied she played any role in detaining the agents.

The attorney general’s office has said a review of her case turned up “contradictions in the statements of federal agents.”

“From the evidence it is clear that some witnesses said they saw the defendant at the scene, others say they did not see her ... creating a reasonable doubt about her involvement,” the office said in a statement.

The statement said there was strong evidence against two other convicted women.

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