Despite serving just over a year of their sentence, four of the seven soldiers accused of participating in the massacre of 22 gang members in the Tlatlaya municipality during June last year are now set for release. There is allegedly insufficient evidence to try them for the deaths.
The soldiers, currently held in military prison, are free of civil charges but could face the outstanding military charges while on bail.
However, the judge’s ruling will leave only three soldiers to face homicide charges against eight people and illicit alteration of evidence and the crime scene, according to Animal Político.
For months, Mexico’s army maintained their official version: one soldier was wounded during the Tlatlaya shootout and the 22 gang members were killed during the gunfire, Aristegui Noticias reports.
In fact, forensic evidence and testimonies have disproved the army’s account of a fierce gun battle. According to a report from the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) 15 of the 22 people were probably killed after they surrendered.
Evidence fails to add up
According to the attorney general’s office, 11 of the victims were “practically shot to death,” while five died while completing “instinctive defensive maneuvers.” Telesur reports.
Defense lawyer Juan Velásquez confirmed the judge’s decision, adding that the evidence “comes only from the testimony of three witnesses, who contradict each other and themselves.”
“If the soldiers had entered in a bloody way to execute 22 people, why would they leave three witnesses? That would be suicidal,” he added.
“The forensics didn’t seem to match the story,”
But upon reaching the scene, bullet holes in the walls, and a series of blood splatters at about chest appeared to confirm that there were some serious loop holes in the official series of events, as Maria Moors Cabot Prize winner, Associated Press journalist Mark Stevenson remembers.
Stevenson’s investigative journalism prompted the case to be re-opened.
“The story looked dicey and was worth looking into. … We were curious that a shoot-out could occur in which all 22 gunmen were killed and only one soldier was wounded. And basically, we went because we could.” He comments.
“Once there (Tlatlaya), the forensics didn’t seem to match the story … we kept looking and pieced the story together.”
But as the Mexican army continues to deny involvement in Tlatlaya and in the case of the 43 missing students in Iguala, elaborate cover-ups continue to plague Mexico’s political landscape.
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