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Time for Solidarity with Alberto Patishtán, political prisoner in Chiapas

March 24, 2013

While Mexican justice refuses to take responsibility in the case of the indigenous political prisoner, his defence team, family and friends start a campaign to demand his freedom.

Faced with the decision of the Office of the Supreme Court not to take the case of the Tzotzil  Alberto Patishtán, perhaps the most iconic political prisoner in Mexico, his family and friends and organizations of human rights defenders are organizing a national and international  campaign to press for his release.

In 2000, Professor Alberto Patishtán Gomez was arrested without a warrant and forced to make a statement without a lawyer or translator. In March 2002 he was sentenced to 60 years in prison for killing seven policemen in an ambush in a place called Las Limas, in the municipality of El Bosque. In spite of reasonable proof offered by the defence that he had not participated in the ambush, and of inconsistencies in the trial, the maximum penalty was given to the teacher; he appealed the decision and received legal protection (un amparo directo), but was sentenced in May 2003, accused of culpable homicide and malicious wounding, robbery, damage and carrying a firearm reserved for the exclusive use of the army.

On October 20, 2011, while Patishtán and other prisoners were on hunger strike in prison in San Cristobal de la Casas, demanding justice for their cases, the teacher was arbitrarily transferred to CEFERESO 8 Norponiente in Guasave, Sinaloa. There he lived in conditions of continual torture which were documented and widely reported by the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Centre. Later, after many protests, he was granted legal protection (amparo) and was able to return to Chiapas. In late 2012, Patishtán was operated on for a brain tumour which had led to him almost losing his sight, and which grew in size due to the lack of appropriate care for his health; after the operation he regained nearly 80 per cent of his vision.
After exhausting the national legal routes (process, appeal and direct legal protection), the  political prisoner’s defence team resorted to the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) seeking a motion for the recognition of innocence, an "exceptional" appeal brought following the emergence of new public documents which were in Patishtán’s favour, and appeared “after the sentence was passed”, Sandino Rivero said in previous interview.
However, on March 6, 2013, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN), decided not to resume its competence in the jurisdiction of the Patishtán case, with two votes in favour and three against. The Supreme Court put the case in the hands of the First Collegiate Court of the Twentieth Circuit, in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, so they could resolve the motion of innocence later in April 2013.
The campaign
Since it seems that Mexican justice is on the side of cases like that of Florence Cassez, and the recent release of another perpetrator of the Acteal Massacre, and not on the side of political prisoners with a history of struggle and resistance, like that of the Tzotzil prisoner, solidarity has risen up around him. Alberto Patishtán Gómez has also been recognized as a human rights defender for his political actions in the prisons he has been transferred to. The Mexican justice system leaves much to be desired in cases like this.
The Patishtán Family, the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba), lawyers and groups, all believe it is the right time for a campaign of national and international support for Alberto Patishtán. On March 20, they gathered together at the Frayba offices to clarify what happened in court and to convoke the campaign known as "Fighting for  Patishtán’s freedom, let’s celebrate his birthday".  Among those attending were Patishtán’s  daughter Gabriela, his friends and family from El Bosque, the lawyer in the case, Leonel Rivero, the director of Frayba, Víctor Hugo López Rodríguez, and, by telephone from Social Rehabilitation Centre number five in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Alberto Patishtán himself. They made a call for solidarity and the joining of forces in this new stage in the demand for his liberation and the search for justice.
The [new] campaign proposes that, from 21 March to 15 April, 4,686 letters are sent, one for each day that Patishtán has been in prison, to the President Minister of the Council of the Federal Judiciary, Juan Silva Meza, and to the ministers of the First Collegiate Court of the Twentieth Circuit.
Social networks will be another setting for the protest. The actions on Facebook will begin on March 23, when users who join the campaign are asked to change their profile pictures to an image that will appear on Facebook dedicated to Patishtán. Every Friday, the campaign indicates, the users should invite their online friends to join the action.
For Twitter, the goal is for 4,686 messages to be published every Friday with the hashtag #LibertadPatishtan. This would also start on March 23, and would be repeated every week until April 19.
The campaign also involves sending photographs, poems, thoughts, drawings and posters on the theme of the political prisoner’s birthday. The materials are to be sent to the email address presoschiapas@gmail.com  or physically brought to the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Centre, which is located at number 14 Calle Brasil, Barrio de Mexicanos, in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas.
The members of the campaign plan to use these materials in demonstrations on April 19th, Patishtán’s birthday, and afterwards they will be sent to him. On the same date peaceful mobilizations are called for at the national and international level, demanding Patishtán’s freedom. In the worldwide actions people can demonstrate and deliver letters to Mexican embassies and consulates in their own countries.
The Ik’ collective said: "We feel called to show solidarity because in the person of Alberto we see all the imprisoned Tzotzil people; in his serene face are the faces of all the indigenous people of Mexico; in his fight for justice are all the thousands of innocents imprisoned; in his look and prayer are all the believers in a just and loving God." They finished by stating that "with our actions we will resurrect justice in Mexico. Resurrection today is justice for innocent people in prison."

You can send your letters to the following addresses:

1.     Ministro Juan N. Silva Mesa

Consejo de la Judicatura Federal

By post: Insurgentes Sur 2417, San Ángel. Álvaro Obregón. C.P. 01000, México D.F.

2.     Primer Tribunal Colegiado del Vigésimo Circuito

By Post: Palacio de Justicia Federal edificio “C”, planta baja, ala “A”, Boulevard Ángel Albino Corzo N0. 2641, Colonia las Palmas, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, C.P. 29040

Please copy your letters to: presoschiapas@gmail.com

We ask you to notify us of all activities you plan for 19 April, together with a photo and/or video of what you did, to presoschiapas@gmail.com so we can inform the national media, and show Professor Patishtán all the support for his freedom.

On 19 April, Patishtán’s birthday, we are asking you to physically deliver messages to the addresses below:
In Mexico City (D.F) - Consejo de la Judicatura Federal, which oversees the work of magistrates and judges in Mexico, at Insurgentes Sur No. 2417, San Ángel. Álvaro Obregón. C.P. 01000, México D.F.
In Tuxtla Gutiérrez - Primer Tribunal Colegiado del Vigésimo Circuito, at the Palacio de Justicia Federal Edificio “C”, Planta Baja, Ala “A”, Boulevard Ángel Albino Corzo No. 2641.