Two years after community police force leader Nestora Salgado’s arrest on charges of kidnapping, the Renton woman still awaits her day in court.
Salgado returned to her hometown of Olinala, Mexico and took a leadership position in a community police force to address the growing level of crime, until she was arrested on charges of kidnapping. The arrest took place after the group arrested a town official on suspicion of theft. Salgado’s supporters say the community police force was sanctioned by the state, and that her arrest is politically motivated.
According to local newspaper Proceso, six witnesses against Salgado failed to appear in court to testify on the state charges against earlier this month.
“They didn’t show up and she cannot defend herself,” said Alejandra Gonza, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law who is helping Salgado with her case.
Salgado’s husband, Jose Avila, says that Salgado, 43, wants to face her accusers.
“She feels kind of angry. The state government (of Guerrero) says, ‘We have these victims.’ But when it comes time for court, nobody shows up,” Avila said.
“If you’re a victim, don’t you want to tell your story to the judge?” he said.
But while the absence of witnesses might get a case dismissed in the United States, the judge in Salgado’s case postponed the hearing, said co-counsel Thomas Antkowiak, a professor at the Seattle University School of Law. Salgado’s next court date is scheduled for Aug. 31.
“She hasn’t been convicted of anything — this is all pre-trial and she’s been in detention for two years,” Antkowiak said.
“It’s another manifestation of repression against activists,” he said.
Earlier this year, the federal charges against her were dropped, but she remains in jail on state charges of kidnapping. Salgado was arrested under the governorship of Angel Aguirre, who left his position last year in the political fallout following the disappearance of 43 students in Iguala, another city in Guerrero. But, The Guardian newspaper reported, the current Guerrero state government is under political pressure to continue the case against Salgado.
Her supporters marked the second anniversary of her arrest in front of the Mexican consulate in Belltown on Friday. For much of her time behind bars, she was in a maximum security prison, where her supporters say she had limited access to visitors and her attorneys. She was moved to another jail earlier this year, after a hunger strike.
Jose Avila said his family, which includes their adult daughters and a grandchild, has some some relief from now being able to speak to Salgado twice a week over the phone, but keeping up the political and court battles has been rough.
“It’s has been really hard emotionally and economically,” he said. “We are are on our last penny, but we should keep fighting.”
“It has been two very difficult years,” he added.