Seattle, WA–Nestora Salgado-García of Renton, who has been illegally detained by Mexican authorities since August 2013, won an important victory in her struggle for freedom when a Mexican federal judge dismissed significant criminal charges against her.
“This decision represents a breakthrough for Nestora,” said Professor Thomas Antkowiak, Director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Seattle University School of Law, which has led international litigation on her behalf. “The judge recognizes that she is not guilty of any crime, because she was acting legally as an authorized leader of her indigenous community.”
State kidnapping charges are still pending against Salgado. However, “this important federal precedent may well lead to the dismissal of the state charges and her release,” states Alejandra Gonza, co-counsel. Accordingly to the federal ruling, law enforcement actions by community police leaders such as Salgado could not be considered illegal.
Salgado was arrested for her courageous community work in the small indigenous village of Olinalá in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. Guerrero law and the Mexican Constitution guarantee the rights of indigenous communities to form their own justice and security institutions. Salgado was a leader of a community-policing group that legally forms part of state law enforcement, and had the express approval of Guerrero’s Governor.
Corrupt authorities abruptly changed position, however, when the group arrested a local official for committing a crime. Salgado was immediately seized by military forces and flown nearly 1,000 kilometers away to the maximum-security prison of El Rincon, in Nayarit. She was denied visits from her elected attorney and family members. Among many other deplorable detention conditions, she has been refused clean water and medical treatment. Supporters hope she will be transferred to a safer facility closer to her family in Mexico.
A naturalized U.S. citizen, Salgado moved to the United States in 1991 at the age of 20. More recently, she divided her time between Olinalá and the Seattle area, where she lives with her husband, José Luis Avila, her daughters, and grandchildren.
Her daughter, Grisel Rodriguez of Renton, expressed hope after many months of despair over and advocacy for her mother. “This shows she is innocent and must be released. She cannot survive much longer in that terrible prison.”
A broad coalition of national and international supporters has demanded Salgado’s release. The Freedom for Nestora Committee – led by Fred Hyde, a retired Administrative Law Judge, and Su Docekal – has obtained the endorsement of many thousands of individuals and organizations. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and several U.S and Mexican political leaders are closely monitoring the case.
Contact: Katherine Hedland-Hansen
Seattle University School of Law