Monday, November 30, 2009

OCEZ Political Prisoners' First Day of Freedom After Nearly Two Months: A Photo and Video Essay

by Luis Abarca (photos and video) and Kristin Bricker (text)
originally published in Narco News on November 24

The Chiapas government arrested Jose Manuel "Don Chema" Hernandez Martinez on September 30, 2009. It sent him to federal maximum security prison in Nayarit.

On October 24, the Chiapas state government detained and allegedly tortured Rocelio de la Cruz Gonzáles and José Manuel de la Torre Hernández.

All three men are leaders of the Emiliano Zapata Campesino Organization - Carranza Region (OCEZ).

On November 24, the three men enjoyed their first day of freedom since their controversial arrests. They celebrated their freedom as any community organizer would: they got back to work. The political prisoners held a press conference and then joined their compañeros in a protest encampment.

The three men are currently out on bail, which was paid for by the Chiapas state government.

Don Chema speaks to reporters in San Cristobal de las Casas following his release.

In the following video, Don Chema tells reporters that he was released thanks to political pressure exerted by various organizations that joined together to demand his release. He explains that the government dropped the charge of "criminal association" (a crime where prisoners must be held without bail), making him eligible for bail. The state government paid his bail, he says, but he does not know how much bail was. At one point, a reporter asks if representatives from the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD, the party that controls Chiapas) informed Chema that it was due to the PRD's efforts that he was released. Don Chema responds that political pressure from the movement freed him. He says that he is committed to remain in the struggle.

José Manuel de la Torre Hernández speaks to reporters following his release.

Rocelio de la Cruz Gonzáles following his release from prison in Chiapas.

The three political prisoners attend a rally and celebration of their release in San Cristobal de las Casas' central plaza, in front of the Cathedral.

The three political prisoners joined their compañeros outside the offices of the United Nations Development Program in San Cristobal de las Casas. The OCEZ occupied the UN offices on October 30 as internally displaced persons to demand freedom for their political prisoners, cancelation of the remaining eleven arrest warrants against their members, and an end to the police occupation of their communities. The arrest warrants remain, the political prisoners must still defend themselves against two minor charges, and the police continue to occupy their community. Therefore, the political prisoners joined the protest encampment at the UN offices. The following video shows the political prisoners at the protest encampment at the UN offices:

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