Federal prosecutors said Friday they have arrested the attorney general in Mexico’s previous administration on charges that he misbehaved in an investigation into the disappearance of 43 students from a radical teachers’ college in 2014.
Prosecutors also announced that they had issued arrest warrants against 20 army soldiers, five local officials, 33 local police officers and 11 state police, as well as 14 members of the gang in connection with the case.
The roundup includes the first arrest of a former attorney general in recent history and the largest mass arrest ever by civilian prosecutors of Mexican Army soldiers.
Jesus Murillo Karam served as Attorney General from 2012 to 2015 under then-President Enrique Pea Nieto. The office of the current Attorney General, Alejandro Gertz Manero, said Murillo Karam was charged with torture, official misconduct and forced disappearances.
In 2020, Gertz Manero said that Murillo Karam was implicated in “conspiracy of a mass media ploy” and led to a “generalized cover-up” in the case.
The arrest came a day after a commission was set up to determine whether the military had taken at least partial responsibility in the case. It said a soldier had infiltrated the student group involved and the military did not stop the kidnapping, although he knew what was happening.
Corrupt local police, other security forces and members of a drug gang kidnapped students in the city of Iguala in Guerrero state, although the motive remains unclear eight years later. Their bodies have never been found, although fragments of burnt bone have been matched to those of three students.
Murilo Karam, under pressure to solve the case quickly, announced in 2014 that students had been killed and their bodies were burned in a garbage dump by members of a drug gang. He called that hypothesis “historical truth”.
But the investigation included instances of torture, improper arrest and mishandling of evidence, which have since allowed most of the directly involved gang members to walk free.
The incident took place near a large military base, and an independent investigation found that members of the military knew what was happening. Student families have been demanding for a long time that soldiers should be included in the investigation.
On Thursday, the Satya Commission probing the case said that one of the kidnapped students was a soldier who had infiltrated the radical teachers’ college, yet the army did not look for him, even though it had real-time information that the abduction took place. Had been. It said the inaction violated the Army’s protocol for cases of missing soldiers.
The Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
The soldiers and officers being sought under Friday’s warrants – and other officers, police and gang members – are facing charges of murder, torture, official misconduct, criminal association and forced disappearance.
It was not immediately clear whether all the suspects had faced all charges or whether the suspects were among dozens who had been previously arrested and charged during previous investigations.
Prior to reform in Mexican law, the military had long been allowed to refer soldiers accused of wrongdoing to separate military courts. But soldiers must now be tried in civilian courts if their crimes involve civilians.
It is alleged that soldiers are being served at the base where the kidnapping took place in 2014.
The Institutional Revolutionary Party, which included both Murillo Karam and Pea Nieto, wrote in its Twitter account that Murillo Karam’s arrest “is more a question of politics than justice. This action does not help the families of the victims to get answers.”
Mexican federal prosecutors previously issued arrest warrants for members of the military and federal police, as well as Tomas Zeron, who at the time of the kidnapping headed the Federal Investigation Agency, Mexico’s detective agency.
Xeron is being sought on charges of torture and concealment of forcible disappearance. He fled to Israel, and Mexico asked the Israeli government for help with his arrest.
Gertz Manero said that in addition to Zero’s alleged crimes related to the case, he is accused of stealing more than $44 million from the budget of the attorney general’s office.
The reason behind the kidnapping of students remains a matter of discussion.
On 26 September 2014, Iguala’s local police, members of organized crime and officials abducted 43 students from buses. The students took command of buses for their transport from time to time.
Murillo Karam claimed that the students were turned into a drug gang, who killed them, burned their bodies in a dump in nearby Kokula and threw the burnt bone pieces into a river.
Subsequent investigations by independent experts and the Attorney General’s Office, and confirmed by the Truth Commission, rejected the idea that the bodies had been incinerated at the Kokula dump.
There is no evidence that a student could still be alive.