Federal prosecutors announced on Friday that they had detained the former attorney general of Mexico on suspicion of wrongdoing in the probe into the 2014 disappearances of 43 students from a radical teacher academy.
Aside from 20 army commanders, five municipal officials, 33 local police officers, 11 state police, as well as 14 gang members, arrest warrants were also announced by the prosecution.
The roundup saw the first arrest of a former attorney general in recent memory as well as one of the largest mass arrests of Mexican army troops ever carried out by civilian prosecutors.
Jess Murillo Karam served as attorney general under former President Enrique Pea Nieto from 2012 to 2015. Murillo Karam is accused of torturing people, engaging in official misconduct, and causing people to vanish, according to the office of the current attorney general, Alejandro Gertz Manero.
Gertz Manero said in 2020 that Murillo Karam was connected to “orchestrating a big media deception” and “generalised cover-up” in the matter.
The arrest happened the next day after the panel charged with investigating the incident concluded that the army was at least partially to blame. It claimed that a soldier had infiltrated the student organisation at issue and that the army was aware of the kidnappings but did nothing to stop them.
The students were taken to the city of Iguala in the state of Guerrero by dishonest local police, other security personnel, and drug gang members, while the reason for the abduction is still unknown eight years later. Although pieces of charred bone have been linked to three of the students, their bodies have never been located.
Murillo Karam revealed in 2014 that the kids had been murdered and their remains burned at a landfill by members of a drug gang under pressure to quickly settle the case. He referred to the theory as “the historical reality.”
The roundup included the first arrest of a former attorney general in recent history, and one of the biggest mass arrests ever by civilian prosecutors of Mexican army soldiers.https://t.co/G4P0W7mnJA
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) August 20, 2022
However, the inquiry turned up instances of torture, erroneous detention, and illegal treatment of evidence, which has subsequently allowed the majority of the gang members who were directly implicated to escape punishment.
Armed forces personnel were informed of the occurrence, according to independent investigations into the incident that took place close to a sizable army post. Soldiers should be included in the probe, according to the students’ families’ long-standing demands.
The truth commission investigating the crime claimed on Thursday that one of the kidnapped students was a soldier who had infiltrated the radical teachers’ college, yet the army did not look for him despite having real-time knowledge of the kidnapping. According to it, the army’s procedures for missing soldier cases were broken by the inaction.
A request for comment was not answered by the defence ministry.
Charges of murder, torture, official misconduct, criminal affiliation, and forcible disappearance are levelled against the troops, officers, other government employees, police, and gang members who are wanted in connection with the warrants issued on Friday.
It was unclear almost at first whether all of the suspects were charged with all of the crimes or if they were only a few of the dozens of people who had been detained and charged in previous investigations.
The army had long been permitted to refer soldiers who were suspected of misbehaviour to distinct military courts prior to changes in Mexican law. However, if civilians were engaged in the offence, troops must now be tried in civilian courts.
The troops facing charges were stationed at the base close to where the 2014 kidnapping took place.
Murillo Karam’s arrest, according to the Institutional Revolutionary Party, to which he and Pea Nieto both belonged, was announced on its Twitter account “is more of a political than a legal issue. The victims’ families are not assisted by this action in getting clarification.”
Tomás Zeron, who was in charge of the federal investigation agency, Mexico’s detective agency, at the time of the kidnapping, had previously been placed under custody by federal prosecutors in Mexico.
On suspicion of torturing people and hiding forced disappearances, Zeron is wanted. Mexico has requested assistance from the Israeli authorities in apprehending him after he fled to Israel.
Gertz Manero claimed that in addition to the charges associated with the case, Zeron is also accused of stealing more than $44 million from the budget of the Attorney General’s Office.
The reason for the students’ kidnapping is still up for discussion.
43 students were taken from buses on September 26, 2014, by Iguala municipal police, members of organised crime, and authorities. Buses were occasionally taken over by students for their own use.
According to Murillo Karam, the students were handed over to a drug gang that executed them, burned their bones at a landfill in the nearby community of Cocula, and dumped the burned remains into a river.
The allegation that the bodies were burned at the Cocula landfill has been refuted in later investigations by independent specialists, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Truth Commission, which were supported by them.
There is no evidence to suggest that any of the students are still alive.