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Accused Zapatistas absolved of terrorism charges

January 4, 1997

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ A federal judge has absolved seven accused Zapatista rebels of terrorism, rebellion and other convictions handed down last year.

The accused rebels had their cases overturned Friday and were expected to be released shortly from the Reclusorio Norte prison, according to a statement from the Zapatista National Liberation Front.

``We are pleased by the liberation of our companions,″ said the Zapatista Front _ a civilian group created by the rebels to fight legally for greater democracy and justice in Mexico.

The seven had been convicted of terrorism, rebellion, conspiracy, manufacturing explosives and possessing weapons reserved for the military. They were also accused of being Zapatistas, but denied all charges.

Their lawyers and human rights advocates said their cases were riddled with irregularities and that torture was used to procure confessions.

The National Human Rights Commission had recommended an investigation into the case, saying officials who handled it were inept.

The seven were identified as Rosa Hernandez Hernandez, Hermelinda Garcia Zepehua, Alvaro Castillo Granados, Martin Trujillo Barajas, Luis Sanchez Navarrete, Hilario Martinez Hernandez and Ricardo Hernandez Lopez.

They were among 21 people who had been in jail nearly two years on charges of being members of the Zapatista National Liberation Army and of planning terrorist attacks. Most have since been released.

The rebels were arrested in February 1995. Weapons allegedly found by police at houses in Mexico City and in the states of Mexico and Veracruz were going to be used in terrorist attacks by the rebels, President Ernesto Zedillo charged.

Based on that claim, Zedillo sent tens of thousands of federal troops into the rebels’ stronghold in the mountains of Chiapas state.

The mostly Indian rebels rose up three years ago in Chiapas, demanding agricultural, electoral, economic and social reforms. A truce has held since February 1995, but peace talks with the government have made little progress.

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