A hard-fought victory was achieved in Oaxaca, Mexico today when Juan Manuel Martínez Moreno emerged from the Santa María Ixcotel prison a free man. Juan Manuel had been held since October 16, 2008 - 490 days - charged with the murder of U.S. Indymedia journalist Brad Will.
As has been documented on this blog and virtually everywhere that wasn't the Mexican Attorney General's Office (PGR), the charges against Juan Manuel were utterly baseless, premised on fabricated evidence and contrary to eyewitness, video and photographic evidence that Brad was killed by government paramilitaries while documenting their attack on a barricade during the 2006 uprising in Oaxaca on October 27, 2006.
On Wednesday, a federal court upheld a lower court's ruling that Juan Manuel be freed due to lack of evidence. The PGR initially appealed the lower court's order. That appeal was defeated and today Juan Manuel was released, greeting his family and supporters outside of the prison and marching defiantly through the streets of Oaxaca to the city center where a rally was held.
Innumerable organizations and individuals put together a tireless international effort to free Juan Manuel. Congratulations and thanks are due to all of them. Without their support and the strength and perseverance of Juan Manuel, his wife Liliana, and his family, there is no doubt things would have ended much differently.
While celebration is in order, it's also imperative to keep fighting for justice for the at least 26 people killed by the state during the 2006 rebellion - including Brad Will, but also Marcos García Tapia, Andrés Santiago Cruz, Pedro Martínez Martínez, Pablo Octavio Martínez Martínez, José Jiménez Colmenares, Gonzalo Cisneros Gautier, Lorenzo Sampablo Cervantes, Daniel Nieto Ovando, Arcadio Fabián Hernández Santiago, José Manuel Castro Patiño, Jaime René Calvo Aragón, Jesús Montalvo Velasco, Alejandro García Hernández, Pánfilo Hernández, Alejandro López López, Emilio Alonso Fabián, Esteban Ruiz, Esteban López Zurita, Audacia Olivera Díaz, José Alberto López Bernal, Fidel Sánchez García, Roberto López Hernández, Raúl Marcial Pérez, Roberto Hernández Martínez, and Marcelo Jacinto Hernández.
Brad's death was investigated, and Juan Manuel scapegoated, in order to appease the U.S. State Department into easing the release of more than $1 billion in mostly military aid through the Merida Initiative (aka Plan Mexico). While the State Dept. initially demanded a "thorough, credible and transparent investigation" into Brad's murder, it remained silent during the 16 month setup of Juan Manuel. As human rights abuses continue to escalate in Mexico, and Obama proposes extending Plan Mexico to the tune of $410 million, actions must continue to support the clamor for justice in Oaxaca, to remain in solidarity with the APPO and its revolutionary demands, and to ensure that U.S. funds are not making it easier for a corrupt and blood-drenched Mexican state to suppress that nation's many social movements.