Convictions overturned for jailed Mexican Christians


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — At least 20 men in Mexico, most of them evangelical Christians, who had been falsely accused of participating in a December 1997 massacre were released in mid-August following a Supreme Court ruling that their convictions violated fundamental norms of justice.

Part of the court ruling said prosecutors in the case fabricated testimony against the men, who have been serving 25- or 36-year sentences related to the Dec. 22, 1997, killing of 45 civilians in Acteal village in Chiapas state. The Compass Direct news service reported that area evangelicals viewed the imprisoned Christians as caught between survivors of the massacre clamoring for convictions and government police and military forces eager to shift blame away from paramilitaries fighting rebels of the Zapatista National Liberation Army. More than 50 people were imprisoned on charges related to the incident.

"Acteal is a double tragedy," attorney Javier Cruz Angulo said after the ruling, according to Compass. "On the one hand, you have an abominable massacre, and on the other, more than 50 human beings imprisoned without proof." The court will review the cases of another 31 men convicted in connection with the killing, and six more will be given new trials, according to news reports.

Some of imprisoned Christians say they were arrested because they were falsely accused by rebel sympathizers with whom they had been embroiled in land disputes. Others said they were simply nearby when authorities made random round-ups.

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