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Immigration officials assault photographer, confiscate his equipment

(CEPET/IFEX) – 20 July 2010 – On 16 July, Irineo Mújica Arzate, an independent photographer and documentary filmmaker, was detained and assaulted and his camera was confiscated by officers from the National Institute for Migration (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM). Mújica was documenting a police action in Soltepec, Puebla, to detain undocumented Central American workers who were travelling by train to the United States. Mújica is a Mexican citizen who resides in Minnesota and he was travelling with the workers to document their trip.

According to Mújica, once the officers realised that they were being filmed, they assaulted him and confiscated his camera, a cellphone, a video camera, two memory sticks and 9,800 pesos (approx. US$760).

Mújica filed a complaint with the INM state representative, Rocío Sánchez de la Vega, who was unsympathetic and accused the photographer of having provoked the Central Americans to assault the officers. The National Commission for Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) was also informed of the incident and arranged for Mújica to receive medical treatment.

On 17 July, Mújica began a hunger strike in front of the INM offices in Puebla, where he tied himself to a pole and demanded that his equipment be returned and that the officers responsible for the assault be punished. The protest was short-lived; several hours later, municipal police officers cut the chains and detained him for "disturbing the public order". The CNDH intervened and Mújica was released without being fined.

On 19 July, Mújica resumed his protest. In a radio interview, he said that he knew where his camera was but he had no information about the memory sticks and the money that had been stolen. He also explained that he was continuing his hunger strike on principle. "I am on a hunger strike because the punches hurt. Not only do they injure the body but one's dignity as well. Nobody at INM has taken responsibility. We are human beings and do not deserved to be assaulted," he said.

In April 2008, Mújica was arrested and accused of trafficking undocumented workers while he was doing similar type of work in Oaxaca.

(Please note this is an abridged translation.)

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