Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Government Harassment in Brad Will Murder Case

Federal Police Pressure Imprisoned APPO Defendant Juan Manuel Martinez to Confess; Will Family Lawyer Faces Legal Harassment

The Mexican Federal Attorney General's Office (PGR) has ratcheted up the pressure in the Brad Will murder case.

The PGR supports the Oaxaca Attorney General's Office's theory that members of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) murdered the US Indymedia journalist in Oaxaca on October 27, 2006. On October 16, 2008, the PGR arrested Juan Manuel Martinez, Octavio Perez Perez, and Hugo Colmenares Leyva--all supporters of the APPO during the 2006 uprising in Oaxaca state--and charged them with Will's murder. The PGR made the arrests despite photographic and ballistic evidence and witness testimony that the fatal gunshots came from a distance, from a death squad comprised of the town mayor, police, and other government agents.

Scary Prison Visit

On April 15, a prison guard escorted Juan Manuel Martinez out of his prison cell, informing him that he was to be given an official notice regarding his case. However, the guard did not take Martinez to the place in the prison where prisoners receive official notices. Instead, he led Martinez to the prison's psychology area. There, a Federal Investigation Agency (AFI) agent named Fabian Laredo awaited. The AFI is the PGR's police force.

According to a communique issued by Martinez's legal defense team and family, Laredo told Martinez "in an intimidating manner" that the PGR sent him to interrogate the defendant.

Martinez reports that he informed Laredo that he would not answer any questions without his lawyer present. Laredo allegedly responded "in a vulgar and overbearing manner:" "Don't be an asshole. You're going to answer me. Tell me once and for all that it was you, that you killed him. Tell me where the gun is, what caliber it was. Tell me once and for all where the gun is. Tell me that you killed Brad Will." Martinez told his legal team that the questioning continued for thirty or thirty-five minutes while Laredo "tried to make him answer the questions."

Later, the prison director refused to meet with Martinez's family members regarding the incident. An administrative assistant told the family that Agent Laredo had presented prison officials with an official letter signed by Evangelina Jaimes, the head of the AFI's Department for Attention to Official Orders from Headquarters, authorizing Laredo to carry out "legal proceedings" with Martinez inside the prison. Martinez's legal team insists that said order is "completely irregular. The only person who has the authority to carry out legal proceedings is the Judge, and not the person mentioned in the [AFI] letter."

As a result of this incident, Martinez's legal team has expressed its "concern for Juan Manuel Martinez's physical safety."

This isn't the first time the PGR has intimidated Martinez in an attempt to extract a confession. In an interview with Milenio's Diego Enrique Osorno, Martinez recounted his first encounter with PGR interrogators:

[The PGR agent said,] "Don't be an asshole, tell me what you know." Later he said, "Look, son of a fucking bitch, I'm going to leave for a bit and you think about what you're going to tell me, because when I get back you don't know what's going to happen to you."

I told him, "You can leave for an hour, two hours, a day, and I'm going to tell you the same thing."

He responded, "Don't be an asshole, son of a fucking bitch, but if you don't tell me, I'm going to fuck you up to get it out of you."

In January, a federal judge declared Martinez's imprisonment "unconstitutional" because of "deficiencies" in the case against him. He remains in prison.

Legal Harassment

On April 7, a week before Martinez's unusual prison visit, the federal district attorney's office (a department within the PGR) summoned Will family lawyer Miguel Angel de los Santos to file an official statement regarding accusations that de los Santos leaked secret information contained in the dossier of the investigation into the murder. The Mexican legal system is currently a written one where judges consider signed statements, depositions, and evidence contained in a case dossier rather than relying on oral testimony during a trial, as is the case in the United States.

De los Santos has not been formally charged with a crime, but the PGR has opened a criminal investigation into whether he "revealed secrets" from the Will dossier to the press. His written statement in response to these accusations will be included in the investigation dossier regarding the leaked secrets.

The accusations against De los Santos stem from two articles, both published on August 9, 2008: "PGR Tries to Blame Brad Will Murder on Four APPO Members" in La Jornada and a similar article that ran in the subscription-only paper Reforma. The articles warned Oaxacans that, based on information contained in the Will dossier, the PGR intended to arrest four APPO organizers for the murder: Miguel Cruz, Édgar Santiago, Hugo Jara, and Arturo Villanueva.

The advance notice may have given Section 22 of the teacher's union, whose strike sparked the uprising in Oaxaca that Will was covering at the time of his death, time to negotiate with the government regarding the APPO suspects. Section 22 reportedly threatened mass mobilizations if the government attempted to arrest the four men or other witnesses who claim government agents murdered Will. The government did arrest APPO supporters in the case on October 16, 2008, though not the ones whose names were announced in the August press conference. Section 22 reportedly negotiated that two of the three men, Perez Perez and Colmenares Leyva, be released on bail. Juan Manuel Martinez, who is accused of pulling the trigger, remains imprisoned.

De los Santos denies that he was behind the leaked information. In an interview with El Porvenir, he said, "Neither of the referenced newspaper articles mention my name as the source of the information. The sources are clearly identified, and are not related in any way to me." The La Jornada article refers to APPO lawyer Gilberto Hernández Santiago as the source of the information; he announced the PGR's intentions in a press conference.

De los Santos argues that the PGR's investigation against him is hypocritical. He told El Porvenir, "It's a shame that the PGR is wasting resources on an investigation against me when the main sources of leaked information have been the PGR's own officials, as in the Brad Will murder case."

The August leak certainly wasn't the only one in the Will case, though it is the only one currently being investigated. In November 2008 someone gave Milenio copies of reports filed by PGR investigators Edilberto Macías Sánchez, Alejandro Carrillo Carrillo, Guillermo Ávila Tapia, and Víctor José Figueroa during their investigation into the Will murder. In their investigations, which were questioned by Mexico's official human rights ombudsman, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), the agents looked into the leftist Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) and local drug barons as possible culprits in the Will murder. During their investigation they also spied on De los Santos and Miguel Cruz, a witness to the Will murder.

That same month, Milenio cited PGR officials as the source of leaked information that the PGR had officially determined that Will was shot from a distance of 50 cm, in direct contradiction to witness testimony, Will's own video of his murder, and the conclusions of a Physicians for Human Rights investigation, which determined that will was shot from a distance of at least 30 meters.

In May 2008, pro-government newspapers reported that the PGR had already decided that APPO supporters had murdered Will. The writers cited PGR officials as their sources.

The CNDH, which is theoretically an independent government agency, has been the most blatant about leaking information from the Will dossier. The CNDH and the PGR have had public disputes in the press regarding the Will case. The PGR ignored the CNDH's recommendations in the case, which included the conclusion that Will had been shot from a distance. In the war between the PGR and the CNDH that was waged in the media, the CNDH criticized the Will dossier and released portions of it, evidence of which can be found here (PDF file) and here.

The PGR has not opened a criminal investigation into the "secrets" revealed by the CNDH, nor has it investigated the strategic leaks that have come out of its own office.

De los Santos told El Porvenir that he believes the PGR's criminal investigation is a form of legal harassment designed to punish him for criticizing the government's handling of the Will investigation. "To involve me in what happened and begin a criminal investigation against me can only be explained as an act of intimidation and harassment because I wouldn't validate the official results of the investigation in the Brad Will case.... [The PGR] put together a criminal investigation that doesn't hold water, and that contradicts the results of the National Human Rights Commission's investigation, and the expert studies done by Physicians for Human Rights, which is why the victim's family has not accepted the PGR's results."

From Narco News: http://narcosphere.narconews.com/notebook/kristin-bricker/2009/04/government-harassment-brad-will-murder-case


or Comment Using Facebook, Yahoo!, Hotmail, or AOL: