A Mexican federal court Tuesday rejected an appeal by two Mexican activists jailed in 1999 while they were leading an anti-logging campaign, their defense attorney said.
The two men, Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera, were jailed in May 1999 for seven and 10 years respectively on marijuana and gun possession charges. The two men claim they were arrested for leading a peasant movement to stop illegal
logging in their Pacific coast state of Guerrero, one of the country's poorest states.
International rights groups and environmentalists have launched a massive support campaign for the activists, whom they call political prisoners, claiming the men are being persecuted by local logging bosses who hold power in the courts. The case even earned attention from President Vicente Fox, who took office in December. Fox called for a review of the case after meeting with human
rights groups and lawyers for the defendants, and in May the federal court agreed
to consider the case.
Last year, Montiel was recognized for his environmental activism by being awarded the $125,000 Goldman Environmental Prize, an honor considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for ecology. In February, Montiel and Cabrera
won the Sierra Club's prestigious Chico Mendes award (Reuters/Planet Ark, Jul 19).
According to the Sierra Club, the convictions of Montiel and Cabrera were upheld "in spite of evidence that they were tortured into confessing to crimes they didn't commit and in spite of consistent public support from President Fox and members of his administration for their release. This is the clearest indication yet that in Mexico, it simply isn't safe to be an environmentalist and that the old guard in Mexico is still in power."
"This stunning ruling against Rodolfo and Teodoro will have an extreme chilling
effect on other environmentalists in Mexico," said Alejandro Queral, of the Sierra
Club's Human Rights and the Environment Program. "President Vicente Fox's
administration, which has been trying to position itself as a leader on human rights, has lost much credibility, not only among the human rights and
environmental communities, but also among the international community" (Sierra
Club Web site).
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.