Mexico grants protection for army slaying witness

AP News
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Posted: Nov 05, 2014 11:01 PM

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexican government said Wednesday it has agreed on protective measures for a witness who told The Associated Press and Esquire magazine that soldiers killed 21 suspected gang members after they surrendered at a warehouse in southern Mexico in late June.

The woman told the AP she had been threatened by agents of the Mexico State prosecutors' office if she talked about what happened at the warehouse on June 30, and said she feared reprisals. The Associated Press has withheld the woman's name.

In October, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission formally recommended that Mexico provide protection for her and her family.

Mexico's Interior Department said Wednesday that it had met with other government agencies and the woman's representatives to decide how to provide protection. The department said in a statement that "the government recognizes the contribution of the victim-witness to the investigation" of the killings and said it "commits itself to protecting her."

The army initially said 22 suspects had all died in a fierce gunbattle with troops after a patrol came under fire at the warehouse in the town of San Pedro Limon in the State of Mexico.

The witness has said only one person died in the initial gunbattle. She says that she and two other women present at the warehouse were taken into custody after soldiers killed the remaining 21 suspects.

She said in September that prosecutors photographed her next to weapons confiscated from the gang at the warehouse and was told she also would be arrested if she didn't cooperate with authorities and confirm their version of events. The witness said the other two women had been tortured and threatened with rape if they didn't support the army's version.

The governmental National Human Rights Commission said last month that its investigation found that evidence soldiers or prosecutors altered the shooting scene to try to cover up the killings. The commission also said prosecutors had tortured the other two female witnesses, who remain in prison on weapons charges.

The commission said there was evidence that soldiers probably executed 15 of the suspects. The federal Attorney General's Office has said eight were executed.

Charges have been brought against seven soldiers in a civilian court. All seven face charges of "actions improper to the public service" and three face more serious charges including aggravated homicide.