Jailed Mexican Activist Nestora Salgado Fighting for Freedom
Nestora Salgado speaks in the community of Buenavista. | Photo: Youtube
Nestora Salgado was immediately slapped with new charges after judges ordered her release, but lawyers are hopeful she will still soon walk free.
Jailed U.S.-Mexican activist Nestora Salgado remains in prison despite a court order demaning her release, some 30 months after being arrested. However, the weak footing of the new homicide and kidnapping charges levelled against her might mean she’s close to regaining her freedom, local media reported Wednesday.
Salgado, a Mexican-born U.S. citizen, was arrested in August 2013 on charges of kidnapping and engaging in organized crime after returning to her hometown of Olinala in the violence-ridden state of Guerrero to organize a community police force, and to take a stand against drug cartels and state complicity in violence.
Mexican judges ruled on Monday that there was no conclusive evidence linking Salgado to 53 kidnapping she was accused of and ordered the activist’s release.
Still, authorities have attempted to block her release, slapping her with three new charges of kidnapping and homicide.
Salgado’s legal team, however, is optimistic that it can still win her release despite political manoeuvres to keep her behind bars.
The activist has a clear alibi for the murder she is accused of committing. Her lawyer, Cesar Sandino, told the Mexican daily La Jornada that Salgado was in a different community over 150 kilometres (90 miles) from the scene of the crime at the time of the homicide.
“Although it sounds more shocking because we are talking about a homicide, it’s the crime for which there is the least evidence,” said Sandino, “because the day the events happened she was in a meeting at midday in the Government House in Chilpancingo, and at 2:00 p.m. she was giving a press conference in Tixtla, which covers the three hours where the events took place.”
Salgado is expected to give her preliminary testimony next Thursday. Her lawyers expect that the lack of evidence will lead to a second order for her release within 72 hours of presenting the defence.
Support for Salgado’s case in Mexico and the United States has shed light on the unjust nature of her detention as a tool by authorities to criminalize activism and resistance. Organizing community police forces like the one Salgado headed in Olinala is legal under the Mexican constitution and Guerrero law.
Human rights defenders have labelled Salgado a political prisoner, while the United Nations ruled earlier this month that her detention is illegal and arbitrary.
Salgado is quoted in an online petition calling on Mexican authorities to drop charges against her as saying that the only case of “kidnapping” is her unjust detention. She maintains that she is being punished for standing up to a corrupt political system.
Arrests carried out by the community police force under Salgado’s leadership included a government official accused of drug trafficking.
Salgado’s community police force is one of many armed vigilante groups across Mexico that organized to combat cartels in the face of the collapse of the rule of law in much of the country.
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