2 July 2010 - Twelve Mexican political prisoners seized in the aftermath of the 2006 Atenco uprising (see SchNEWS 543) have been released following a sensational high court ruling. Judges ruled that not only was there no evidence to sustain the prosecution's case but also that the charges the twelve faced - organised kidnapping - didn't even exist in Mexican law.
Before the ruling the twelve had been serving sentences ranging from 31 to 112 years for their role in detaining police officers during the 2006 rebellion. The bloody clashes were sparked by an assault on local flower vendors, (see SchNEWS 543)who police were targeting to pave the way for a new commercial centre. Atenco residents and the FPDT came to the flower-sellers' aid, driving off the police in skirmishes that saw police beaten by crowds and 15 taken hostage before being released to the Red Cross. Thousands of revenge hungry police then marched on the town armed with batons, tear gas and sub-machine guns. The residents defended themselves by building barricades and arming themselves with machetes and Molotovs.
The next day the police launched a brutal attack on the besieged town. Hundreds were savagely beaten and two people killed, including a 14-year old boy hit by a tear gas canister. Twenty-six women were subjected to horrific sexual abuse, a number of them raped. Homes were invaded by marauding coppers and around 200 people were arrested.
The rebellious residents of Atenco have been challenging the Mexican state since fighting off plans for an airport on local farm land in 2002 (see SchNEWS 367). Following that victory they declared the town the first 'autonomous municipality' outside of the Zapatista zones in Chiapas.
Nearly a decade on and that spirit of rebellion is still going strong despite the oppression and injustices of the last years. The announcement of the ruling led to an impromptu town festival, while hundreds of locals and activists established a vigil outside the prison holding (1st) Ignacio del Valle Medina, Felipe Álvarez and Héctor Galind. There, they waited for the release of the prisoners behind a giant banner proclaiming "Welcome, compañeros, to your town".