Lawyers Heriberto Gomez Coello and Maria del Carmen Grajales Castillejos were arrested on August 11, 2004 in Cintalapa, in the southern state of Chiapas. They were charged with attempting to present false statements. Mr. Coella and Ms. Castillejos represent Eduardo Hernandez Sanchez, Carlos Navarro Perez, Enrique Hernandez Ramos and Romelia Bermudez who were detained between January and April for alleged involvement in the shooting of a teacher in San Cristobal de las Casas in December 2003. The arrest of the two lawyers is believed to be an attempt to stop them defending their clients. Three of the clients were tortured by state police agents in order to secure confessions.
Eduardo Hernandez was detained by four police agents on January 5, 2004. He was allegedly handcuffed, blindfolded and taken to the outskirts of the town and then beaten in the stomach and genitals by the police agents. The agents then allegedly poured water into his nose in an attempt to make him confess to the murder. At some point, one of the police agents reportedly said “chief, he is not going to talk”. The next day, Eduardo Hernandez was reportedly taken to the State Procurator’s Office and coerced at gunpoint into being photographed holding a gun. He was then imprisoned on 9 January.
Carlos Navarro was reportedly arrested without an arrest warrant by two men on 24 January. He was allegedly taken by them to the office of the Sub-prosecutor where he was told, “if you say you killed the teacher we will pay you”. Carlos Navarro was also interrogated in a van where four members of the State police allegedly beat him while asking, “who paid you (to kill the teacher)?” On two occasions they covered his face with a plastic bag, eventually causing him to faint. He was imprisoned on 26 January.
Carlos Navarro was further interrogated at the State Prosecutor’s office in the city of Tuxla Gutierrez, where he was reportedly beaten again in the presence of ten police officers and a member of the Public Ministry (Ministerio Publico). On 26 January, he was forced to sign a confession to the murder in which Eduardo Hernandez was implicated and Romelia Bermudez and her son Enrique Hernandez were named as ordering the killing. The mother and son were detained on 26 January and 15 April respectively. According to a psychological examination Enrique Hernandez was tortured while in detention.
Carlos Alberto was arrested on August 11, 2004 because the Pubic Ministry believes he witnessed the killing of the teacher. Carlos Alberto has reportedly stated before a judge that he was not present at the killing and does not know who committed the crime. Carlos Alberto has reportedly been charged with making false statements.
Letter written August 24, 2004 by Monique Pongracic-Speier, member of LRWC