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Mexico5 December 2006

Two suspects in cameraman Brad Will’s murder freed for lack of evidence

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today on learning of the release of Abel Santiago Zárate, the official in charge of public security in Santa Lucia del Camino (in Oaxaca state), and his bodyguard, Orlando Manuel Aguilar Coello, who had been arrested on suspicion of firing the shots that killed Indymedia cameraman Brad Will during a protest against Oaxaca’s governor on 27 October.

Despite witness accounts and other evidence that they fired in Will’s direction, they were released on 1 December after a month in custody, the daily newspaper La Jornada reported. Explaining their release, the Oaxaca state prosecutor’s office (Procuraduria General de Justicia del Estado) simply said the type of firearm used to kill Will did not match those used by the two suspects.

“The findings of the autopsies carried out on Will were rigged by the authorities in order to blame his murder on activists of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), whose protests Will was covering,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Zárate and Aguilar, who at the very least are key witnesses if not those directly responsible for the murder, have now been released while other suspects have never been detained.”

The press freedom organisation added: “Finally, and above all, the identity of the other suspects has changed dramatically. We are no longer talking about the two municipal policemen, Juan Carlos Soriano and Juan Carlos Sumano, or the paramilitary, Pedro Carmona. Everything suggests that the Oaxaca state judicial authorities are now trying to cover up for Governor Ulíses Ruiz Ortiz’s aides. This is an insult to the victim and a spur to impunity.”

03.11.06 - Investigators slip up in Brad Will case, while seven journalists hurt in Oaxaca clashes with federal policebr>

While noting that two of Indymedia cameraman Brad Will’s alleged killers were arrested and taken before a judge yesterday in Oaxaca, Reporters Without Borders today condemned the shortcomings in the investigation into his fatal shooting and the fact that three others allegedly involved have been able to escape.

The press freedom organisation also voiced outrage about the use of violence by the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) to disperse protesters in the past few days in Oaxaca, in the course of which five journalists were injured and two others were roughed up.

“Two of Will’s alleged killers may well be under arrest but three others, including two municipal policemen and a paramilitary, did not respond to a judicial summons and cannot be located,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The investigation in no way absolves the Oaxaca state government of responsibility in Will’s death and we reiterate our call for the creation of a federal commission of enquiry.”

The organisation added: “We also condemn the police brutality in which seven journalists were among the victims and we urge the federal authorities to punish those responsible.”

The two men arrested yesterday on the orders of the Oaxaca state prosecutor’s office for their alleged role in Will’s murder were Abel Santiago Zárate, a local elected representative of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which controls the state government, and his chief bodyguard, Manuel Aguilar.

The national daily Milenio named the three other presumed killers who are now fugitives from justice as municipal policemen Carlos Soriano and Juan Carlos Sumano, and paramilitary gang member Pedro Carmona, who was identified by witnesses as the person who fired the shot that killed Will while he was covering a violent protest by teachers in Oaxaca on 27 October.

Yesterday’s violence took place when the PFP federal police entered the Oaxaca university campus and dismantled barricades put up by the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), which has been protesting for five months to press demands for the removal of Oaxaca’s PRI governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz.

Among the approximately 60 people injured in the violence were photographer Jorge David Jaramillo Velásquez of the El Universal daily, photographers Miguel Dimayuga and Germán Canseco of the weekly Proceso and cameraman Jorge Brindis of the Canal 9 public TV station, who were hit by flying glass or petrol bombs.

Jaramillo was hospitalised in a serious condition, but his injuries are not life-threatening, Reporters Without Borders was told. Mario Mosqueda Hernández, a correspondent of the Centro de Medios Libres de México independent news agency was beaten and dragged along the ground by 10 federal policemen during yesterday’s incidents. He has injuries to the head, back and left arm.

Gilardo Mota of the local weekly Opinión told Agence France-Presse on 1 November that he was held for 48 hours and was roughed by federal police after being arrested on 30 October while photographing police in action. He was finally released after paying bail of 3,000 pesos (216 euros). On 31 October, police attacked photographer Alberto López Cruz of the local daily Extra and took his camera. The Centro de Medios Libres de México also reported that two Guatemalan journalists went missing yesterday.

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