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Protesters Ask Japanese Help in Freeing Jailed Leader

December 9, 1987

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Police surrounded the Japanese Embassy Tuesday after about 130 Mexicans occupied the garden and begged Japanese officials to help them gain freedom for the imprisoned leader of a squatter camp.

Manuel Campos, deputy spokesman for Mexico’s Interior Department, said the protesters would be forcibly removed only if Japanese officials requested it. The Interior Department is in charge of domestic security.

The embassy said Japanese Ambassador Takeshi Naito was out of Mexico. All questions were referred to counselor Ken Shimanouchi, who aides said was in meetings.

On Monday, a few hours after the protesters entered the garden area in front of the building, Shimanouchi said the protest ″has nothing to do with this embassy or Japan. All I can say at this moment is that we want a prompt and peaceful resolution of this current situation.″

A city police spokesman, Juan Carlos Ortiz, said in a telephone interview that the 50 police were on guard ″only as a security measure.″

Mexicans have occupied foreign embassies on certain occasions when they have been unable to gain certain things from Mexican authorities. It was not clear why the group chose the Japanese Embassy.

Leaders of the 100 adults and 30 children said they sought foreign help because Mexican judicial authorities refused to release Francisco de la Cruz Velasco, who is serving 19 years and seven months in a city prison.

De la Cruz Velasco was arrested March 2, 1981, after resisting police attempts to evacuate Mexico City’s ″Second of October″ neighborhood, a squatter camp near a public housing project.

He was convicted the next day of robbery, arson, looting and other crimes and has been jailed since then. Supporters say de la Cruz Velasco was innocent.

Protesters said an appeal of de la Cruz Velasco’s sentence failed as did pleas to the Interior Department.

Campos said the case was outside the Interior Department’s jurisdiction.

Update hourly