Mexican federal police are investigating allegations that officers improperly arrested 11 anti-government protesters and then tortured at least one of them while in custody.
Mexico’s National Security Commissioner’s office apologized to one of the protesters, Sandino Bucio, and said its internal affairs unit would investigate his claims. Police officers involved in his case – who were not in uniform nor were in a police vehicle when he was arrested – have been suspended.
The 11 protesters were jailed for two days then released without charges on Sunday following an international uproar. A Mexican judge had ordered their release.
Bucio, a university student, publicly denounced his treatment in prison and told reporters police beat him, grabbed him by the testicles and threated to rape him, the Los Angeles Times reported. Five others held a news conference on Sunday, in which they said police physically abused them, psychologically tortured them and threatened to burn them alive, the LA Times reported.
Various demonstrations have plagued the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto since the Sept. 26 kidnapping and likely death of 43 college students who went missing in Iguala, in the state of Guerrero.
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The students were allegedly attacked by local police working with a drug cartel. The government has said that the town’s mayor and his wife also played a major part in their disappearance, which sparked the demonstrations.
The now-released protesters were arrested during a Nov. 20 clash with police in Mexico City’s Zocalo where masked demonstrators hurled objects at the heavily armed riot police. More than 20 people were arrested, but eight men and three women were sent to maximum security prisons.
Amnesty International and other human rights groups demanded their freedom, calling the charges the detainees would have probably faced “disproportionate.”
“The evidence against the 11 demonstrators is so weak that it is difficult to understand why they are still in prison – especially in high-security installations, being treated as highly dangerous criminals,” Erika Guevara Rosas, director of the Americas section of Amnesty International, said in a statement Friday. “Such treatment begs the question of whether there isn’t a deliberate effort to discourage legitimate protest.”
On Saturday, a judge found insufficient evidence to prosecute them for any of the alleged charges, which included criminal association, mutiny and causing bodily harm.