State Dept. Must Decide on Motivation in Durazo Case

From Times Wire Services

The State Department, not U.S. District Court, is the appropriate forum for arguments on whether charges against former Mexico City Police Chief Arturo Durazo Moreno are politically motivated, a federal magistrate said Monday.

Attorneys for Durazo, who faces extradition to Mexico on weapons, extortion and tax evasion charges, have argued that he should not be forced to return to his homeland because the charges are part of an attempt by the Mexican government to divert attention from other political problems.

They contended that a treaty between the United States and Mexico bars extradition on politically motivated charges.

In addressing the issue Monday, U.S. Magistrate Volney V. Brown Jr., sitting in Los Angeles, said the court is "not trained to cope with delicate foreign affairs" and told Durazo's attorneys that arguments on that section of the treaty should be presented to Secretary of State George Shultz, not to the courts.

Defense attorney Bernard Zimmerman refused to comment on the magistrate's pronouncement.

In other blows to the defense, Brown refused to admit as evidence a report from a handwriting analyst who said Durazo's signature was forged on documents used by the Mexican government to bolster its claims that Durazo extorted money from police officers under his command.

Brown also would not permit the testimony of two experts in Mexican history, but he allowed Zimmerman to summarize what they would have said. Zimmerman said they would have shown that the case "has all the elements of a political persecution."

Later in the week, government attorneys are expected to rebut testimony by a Mexican law expert who said Friday that Durazo may not be prosecuted under Mexican law for extortion and stockpiling weapons because the alleged offenses were committed too long ago.

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