By BosNewsLife Americas Service
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO (BosNewsLife)– Mexico’s highest court ordered the release of nine mainly evangelical prisoners who were convicted in a 1997 massacre of Indians, but over 20 others remain behind bars.
New trials were ordered Wednesday, November 4, for 16 people.
It was the second time this year the Supreme Court overturned the sentences of mainly evangelical Christians, who were convicted for the slaying of 45 people at Acteal, a village in southern Chiapas state.
The court released 20 prisoners in August and ordered new trials for six.
Christian rights groups say the evangelical detainees are unjustly accused, but judges have so far refused to declare them innocent.
However the court cited “irregularities” including the apparent failure to provide interpreters for suspects who speak the Tzotzil language. Prosecutors also apparently took pictures of the suspects and showed them to witnesses, who later identified the men as perpetrators.
In a 4-1 vote, the court reportedly ruled the federal attorney general violated legal process, “fabricated evidence” and “false testimonies,” trial observers said. Prosecutors allegedly also formulated non-existent crimes and provided no concrete argument establishing culpability of the nine men.
The court has finished reviewing the cases of all 51 people who appealed their convictions in the case, news reports said.
The massacre in Acteal on Dec. 22, 1997, was the worst single instance of violence during a conflict that started when the leftist Zapatista movement staged a brief armed uprising in early 1994 to demand more rights for Indians in Chiapas.
Paramilitaries with alleged ties to government figures attacked a prayer meeting of Roman Catholic activists who they claimed sympathized with the rebels. Within hours hours, the attackers killed 45 people, including children as young as 2 months old, according to rights investigators.