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Court Cuts Salinas Murder Sentence

July 16, 1999

TOLUCA, Mexico (AP) _ An appeals court today reduced the homicide sentence of Raul Salinas de Gortari, brother of a former president, to 27 1/2 years, cutting almost in half his term for ordering a political rival killed.

Salinas, brother of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, had been sentenced to 50 years in January for masterminding the 1994 killing of Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu, a leader of the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party.

The two brothers are perhaps the two most hated people in Mexico, and Raul Salinas’ trial was the highest-profile murder trial in modern Mexican history.

The brothers are seen as corrupt, arrogant and responsible for the economic crisis that struck weeks after Carlos Salinas’ presidential term ended in December 1994.

The ruling, announced by a court in Toluca, 35 miles west of Mexico City, came hours after Switzerland’s top court overturned the confiscation of $114.4 million linked to Raul Salinas. The court said federal officials didn’t have the authority to order the seizure and should have deferred to local governments.

Raul Salinas’ arrest and conviction stunned Mexicans, long accustomed to a judicial system in which the wealthy and powerful were never held accountable for crimes.

But the case also caused discomfort because the evidence against Raul Salinas wasn’t strong, some witnesses had been paid and prosecutors tried to plant evidence against him.

In the appeal, his lawyers argued that the sentence was wrong because it applied laws retroactively and violated his right to life, liberty and property.

Raul Salinas is being tried separately on charges of illegal enrichment, a count that covers alleged bribes, aiding drug smugglers and misusing public funds.

The allegations of corruption were what led authorities to confiscate the $114.4 million that he, his wife and others had in Swiss bank accounts.

Prosecutors said the money came partly from bribes from Mexican and Colombian cocaine traffickers.

His lawyers appealed the seizure, contesting the Swiss assertion that the money came from illegal sources. They challenged the use of anonymous sources and witnesses in the Swiss case.

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