Mexican Freed After 12 Years in Jail for Crime He didn't Commit

Mexico City, Jul 6 (IANS/EFE): A Mexican Indian who spent 11 years and 10 months in jail was freed after his murder conviction was overturned, a human rights organisation said Tuesday.

Pedro Gatica, a native of Cienega del Sauce in the southern state of Guerrero, was released from prison by the state superior court.

The human rights organisation, Asilegal, said in a communique that Gatica, who speaks no Spanish, was arrested in 1999 when he was just 16 and subjected "to a trial that continued long past the length of time that preventive custody should last and longer than a reasonable amount of time for his trial".

The Mexican constitution establishes a maximum of two years of pre-trial detention, the organisation said.

After Gatica had spent 11 years and two months in jail, Asilegal took over defense of the case and in just eight months the Indian got a "pardon and his release by means of a unanimous verdict from the judges", the note said.

Among other "grave procedural delays", the organization said that the trial judge who initially sentenced Gatica took four years to carry out the key part of the process, and once that was done, another six years to hand down a sentence.

The defense argued that Gatica was submitted "to a trial full of flagrant violations of his rights", such as the "incorrect assessment of the evidence and his lack of access to an interpreter".

Such irregularities are common "in the more marginalised areas of Guerrero", Asilegal said.

Citing figures from Guerrero authorities, Asilegal said that more than half the people held in the state's prisons as of November 2010 were still awaiting final verdicts in their cases.

Six of Gatica's siblings and their father, a community leader, were gunned down in the 1980s as part of a conflict over land that forced Pedro to move away from Cienega del Sauce for several years.

In 1999 Gatica was accused of murdering Raymundo Flores Zeferino, a member of one of the families battling over land.


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Title: Mexican Freed After 12 Years in Jail for Crime He didn't Commit

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