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Founder of community radio station accused of forcible confinement

(ARTICLE 19/CENCOS) - On 11 November 2009, a case against David Valtierra Arango, the founder of the Radio Ñomndaa community radio station, was sent to trial. Radio Ñomndaa is based in the municipality of Suljaa' (Xochistlahuaca), in the state of Guerrero, southern Mexico.

Valtierra Arango, a well known defender of indigenous peoples' rights, was accused, along with 30 other individuals, of robbery and forcible confinement. In October 2008, several days before municipal elections in the area, Ariosto Rocha Ramírez, the brother of current Chamber of Deputies member and former mayor Aceadeth Rocha Ramírez, was held against his will by residents of the municipality and was subsequently taken to the authorities, accused of involvement in electoral fraud in the community of Arroyo Grande.

In a 9 October 2009 statement provided to the authorities, Valtierra Arrango said that he was not even in the community on the day when the incident took place (La Jornada Guerrero, 11 November 2009). On 16 November, 28 of the 30 individuals accused of having detained Ariosto Rocha Ramírez (two of the 30 are in the United States) were acquitted of the charges against them because the principal witness retracted his testimony and said he had been forced to give statements against the community members (El Sur de Acapulco, 17 November 2009). Valtierra Arango is currently free on bail.

This is the second legal case against Valtierra Arango. In an interview with CENCOS, the human rights defender said, "There is a direct relationship between this harassment and the work carried out by the radio station."

In July 2008, attempts were made to close Radio Ñomndaa, which was founded in 2004. The radio station plays a social role in the community and is involved in defending and creating an environment of respect for the rights of the indigenous population.

ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS condemn the use of the judicial system to hinder freedom of expression and demand an end to the harassment of Valtierra Arango and Radio Ñomndaa. In addition, the two organisations call on the Mexican government to implement the necessary measures to ensure that community radio stations can operate freely and within an appropriate legal framework in accordance with international human rights law.

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