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Nine Indigenous are Freed in Chiapas; Patishtán will Remain a Prisoner

** The governor, Manuel Velasco Coello, went to the prison

[Alberto Patishtán Gómez, with fist raised, says goodbye at the gates of the Los Llanos Prison to his nine compañeros in struggle, who obtained their freedom yesterday and rejoined their families. Photo: Moysés Zúñiga Santiago]

By: Hermann Bellinghausen
San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, July 4, 2013

It is the third time that Alberto Patishtán Gómez has watched his compañeros leaving prison, after a long and painful struggle together to regain not only their freedom, but also their stolen dignity, the years lost without reason or crime. It is the third time that he has remained inside.

This is because nine prisoners, adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle, were finally released this afternoon, after three days of waiting for the state government’s decision to be fulfilled. They spent several years in constant peaceful struggle, a hunger strike, many evenings of loneliness and desperation. They still had to wait for their freedom (or rather a correction of the justice system operating in Chiapas, a warning call). Since Tuesday they have had one foot in the stirrup, and nothing. Outside, in the rain or sun, their mothers, wives and/or children waited for them for two days, with overwhelming disbelief.

Governor Manuel Velasco Coello arrived by land from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, at 6:15 PM, at Los Llanos Prison, in San Cristóbal’s rural zone, to deliver the release papers to the indigenous, after entering the booths and interviewing each one of them.

Afterwards, Professor Alberto Patishtán Gómez, who will remain in prison together with Alejandro Díaz Sántiz, went to the prison gates and crossed through them for a few metres to ‘‘deliver’’ the released to their families: ‘‘Here I hand over the compañeros; I am still remaining here, but we must not lose hope,’’ he said, smiling and confident, before turning and re-entering the prison, accompanied by the governor and a swarm of officials and escorts.

The people who left state prison number five on Thursday are: Rosario Díaz Méndez, Pedro López Jiménez, Juan Collazo Jiménez, Juan Díaz López, Rosa López Díaz, Alfredo López Jiménez, Juan López González and Benjamín López Díaz. Once outside, Pedro López Jiménez said, standing at the edge of the road: ‘‘this victory is for everyone, it not just ours and not just yours,’’ directing himself to the indigenous families and solidarity sympathizers from civil society who were waiting for them. Some of them have accompanied the prisoners for many years.

‘‘We will continue struggling. We are not going to stop, much less are we going to abandon Compañero Alberto, who remains inside,’’ Pedro added at the foot of a big rock where banners and chants were demanding: ‘‘freedom for political prisoners!’’ The few dozen people gathered there embraced and greeted with tears the eight men and Rosa, the only woman in the group of people released, who was pregnant during her torture and unjustified incarceration in 2007, and lost a son, among other things.

Rosario Díaz Méndez, from the Voice of El Amate, said: ‘‘we will continue struggling until we achieve the freedom of Compañero Alberto and all the compañeros that are still prisoners.’’ He also leaves declared innocent. Eight years after the judicial ‘‘error’’ which sentenced him to 30 years for two grave crimes (that he did not commit), his wife could not stop hugging him; they are the oldest couple, the others are young.

The nine are leaving prison as a result of years of collective effort, in many countries, on many occasions, above all by those inside the prisons, where the Voice of El Amate and those in Solidarity with the Voice of El Amate became defenders of the rights of the prison population. In the case of Los Llanos, they transformed life inside the prison with their peaceful civil courage. If anyone is going to miss them, it’s the remaining prisoners.

It has proved a political event. A triumph of the indigenous who, the majority at the mercy of official lawyers (public defenders), demonstrated that they were in the right and showed this (as their release confirms) to the police who arrested and also tortured them, to the District Attorney’s agents who jailed them while knowing that they were innocent, to the judges who sentenced them, to the politicians who administered the sustained protest of these Tzotziles and Tzeltales from different places.

In the evening, the liberated indigenous headed for the San Cristóbal Cathedral, as they had promised, to visit the tomb of Samuel Ruiz García, their Tatic (father).
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Friday, July 5, 2013

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