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Mexico4 June 2004

Disturbing development in probe of journalist’s murder

Reporters Without Borders voiced new concern today about the enquiry into the killing of Mexican journalist Roberto Javier Mora García after an independent commission revealed that a weapon found at a suspect’s home was not the same as the one described in the autopsy.

The press freedom organisation said it threw "new doubt on the seriousness of the investigation" into the 19 March murder and came after stories of torture during interrogation of two suspects and the death of one of them in prison. It urged prosecutor-general Ramón Duron Ruiz (of the northeastern state of Tamaulipas) to order a new examination of the weapon in view of the independent En Memoria Commission’s new information.

In an earlier (so far unanswered) letter to Duron Ruiz on 18 May, the organisation called for a thorough enquiry into the prison murder of suspect Mario Medina Vázquez to determine whether it was related to Mora García murder. The journalist had several times exposed drug trafficking, "so we ask you to bear in mind that he may have been killed for that," it said.

Mora García, editor of the daily El Mañana, in Nuevo Laredo (Tamaulipas), was stabbed to death in front of his home. Nine days later, a homosexual couple who were neighbours, Mario Medina Vázquez and Hiram Olivero Ortiz, were arrested and police said Medina Vázquez confessed to killing the journalist for sexual reasons. He denied this and said he had confessed under torture. On 13 May, he was killed by a fellow inmate at the Cereso II prison in Nuevo Laredo.

New development
The En Memoria Commission said in a 30 May 2004 report that the weapon found at the suspects’ house was not the same as the one in the autopsy report, which referred to stab wounds by a complex knife while the one from the suspects’ house was a simple one. Tamaulipas prosecutor-general Francisco Cayuela said on 27 April that DNA tests showed the simple knife was the one with the journalist’s blood on it.

The commission, which obtained film of the questioning of the two suspects, also raised the torture allegations, noting that Medina Vázquez said he had been arrested at 19:00 on 26 mars while the authorities said they arrested him at 23:00. It was during this time that he said he had been tortured and threatened with death. As a US citizen, Medina Vázquez had filed a complaint about his treatment at the US consulate and US officials had formally protested.

The Commission criticised the failure to investigate the torture charges, but after two reports, a meeting between Israel Castellanos Castillo, one of the two policemen accused by the suspects and suspect Oliveros Ortiz took place on 2 June. A confrontation with the other accused police officer was set for 3 June.

Murdered in prison
The commission’s report also mentions Medina Vázquez’ murder in prison, when he was stabbed more than 80 times by fellow inmate Roberto Herrera González, who was serving time for two murders and drug possession. Herrera González said at first he had killed him because he had wrongly accused him of a crime, but he then changed his story.

The US consul in Nuevo Laredo, Michael Yoder, said Mexican authorities had assured him Medina Vázquez and Oliveros Ortiz had been kept in a separate cell for their own safety. He also expressed surprise that the spot where Medina Vázquez was killed had been cleaned up before police arrived, removing valuable evidence.

US officials in Washington called on 17 May for an investigation into the murder. Prosecutor-general Cayuela resigned and was immediately replaced.

Mora García had written several articles about the Gulf Cartel, a regional network of drug traffickers, and said police and government workers were involved. He also denounced the activities of the "zeta" groups of former police extorting money from businessmen for the drug traffickers and blamed the state government for the climate of impunity in the state.

A commission delegation visited Tamaulipas from 22 to 24 April. The commission includes the Mexican groups Centro de Estudios Fronterizos y de Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CEFPDH), Libertad de Información-México (LIMAC) and the Centro de Periodismo y Etica Pública (CEPET), as well as foreign organisations such as the PEN Club and Periodistas Frente a la Corrupción (PFC). It works closely with Reporters Without Borders.

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