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Court drops charges against founder of community radio station

(ARTICLE 19/CENCOS/IFEX) - A judge in the state of Guerrero has issued a release order for David Valtierra Arango, a founding member of the community radio station Radio Ñomndaa, La Palabra del Agua. ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS reported on Valtierra Arango's detention on 18 November 2009. He had been accused of forcible confinement and robbery.

In a ruling issued on 23 February, the Superior Court of Justice in Guerrero ruled that Valtierra Arango should be freed because "there was not enough evidence to try him for the crimes of forcible confinement and robbery against Ariosto Rocha Ramírez." Rocha Ramírez is the brother of Aceadeth Rocha Ramírez, the current state deputy and past mayor of Sulja' (Xochistlahuaca). Valtierra Arango had been free on bail.

On 16 November 2009, 28 of the 30 people who were originally accused of the same crimes were found not guilty due to lack of evidence after testimony was retracted by the principal witness.

The coordinating committee of Radio Ñomndaa believes that the trial is based on false accusations and stems from the work that it does to support their collective rights as an indigenous people. There is currently another judicial proceeding pending against Valtierra Arango, also for forcible confinement.

According to Alejandro Ramos Gallegos, a lawyer for the Centre for Human Rights at Montaña Tlachinollan, the sentence "demonstrates that the crime was an invention, because David didn't participate in it. The judge used his power to punish David Valtierra without abiding by due process in issuing an arrest warrant, and even less so in ordering him to remain in custody."

ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS are pleased with the judicial resolution. The arbitrary use of the administrative and justice systems, specifically in the local sphere, has been documented as an obstacle to defending human rights by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights in Mexico.

ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS also point out that Article 16 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognizes their right to operate their own media.

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