Fueled by a recent United Nations human rights panel decision, supporters of Nestora Salgado, the Renton woman jailed in Mexico after organizing a community police force, are pressing members of Congress and other U.S. officials to take action on Salgado’s case.
Last week, Salgado’s lawyers at Seattle University’s Human Rights Clinic learned that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that her imprisonment is illegal.
While the ruling isn’t binding, according to a story in the Associated Press, her supporters said in a press conference on Monday night that they hoped it would build support for Salgado from United States officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, to pressure Mexico to release the naturalized U.S. citizen.
The U.N. group “are very firm on their stance, mentioning without a doubt, that it is a simple case. She qualifies for three of the five possible circumstances which would determine her case illegal,” said Iris Stokes, speaking at the video press conference for the Seattle-based Freedom for Nestora campaign. “They have recommended her immediate release from Mexico as well as to be compensated for the grave losses she has endured.”
John Ackerman, a professor in Mexico, called Salgado a political prisoner and said corruption keeps Salgado in jail and is at every level of government.
“She dared to speak truth to power, she dared to question the networks of narco-politics which control Mexico, all the way from the local all the way to the federal level,” he said.
“It is just ridiculous for instance to say that somehow Nestora Salgado is in jail as part of a strategy for controlling organized crime, when precisely her role, and her commitment, and and her bravery was about combating organized crime,” Ackerman said.
Since 2013, Salgado, a grandmother who has lived in the Seattle area for 20 years, has been behind bars, accused by the state of Guerrero of kidnapping.
She moved to her hometown of Olinala in Guerrero several years ago, and started an indigenous community police force. Her lawyers say such a militia group for policing is allowed under Mexican law.
But Guerrero state attorney general Miguel Ángel Godínez Muñoz and other Mexican authorities maintain Salgado crossed the line when the group detained three teenagers accused of cocaine-dealing and a town official who Salgado says worked closely with drug cartels.
Groups such as Mexico SOS that advocate for kidnapping victims and their families have argued that Salgado should not be released without a trial. Salgado and her family say she is looking forward to a day in court, but she remains behind bars and her trial delayed as her accusers have failed to show up in court to testify against her.
Among those demanding her release are dozens of human rights advocates, recently elected Guerrero Gov. Rogelio Ortega Martinez, and 13 Mexican senators, along with her supporters and family in Washington state. Mexico’s federal courts dropped similar charges filed against her,according to her lawyers, but state prosecutors in Guerrero continue to pursue it.
Ackerman and Chicago organizer Manuel Revueltas encouraged Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the United States to contact their representatives in Congress and to contact the U.S. State Department to bring pressure onto the Mexican federal government.
“The Mexican government does not care about local opinions… but they care about international public opinions,” Ackerman said.