Charges Against Durazo Called Political

Times Staff Writer

Attorneys for former Mexico City Police Chief Arturo Durazo Moreno argued in court Monday that the corruption-related charges against the once-powerful official constitute a "political prosecution" based on crimes "sensationalized in the media."

Durazo, 68, is undergoing extradition proceedings in Los Angeles to determine if he will be sent back to Mexico, where he stands accused of extorting more than $700,000 from officials under his control, illegally stockpiling 150 weapons and possessing valuable imported goods in violation of customs laws.

Defense attorney Bernard Zimmerman charged that the accusations against Durazo are politically motivated. People accused of political crimes are not extraditable under most extradition treaties, including the 1978 treaty with Mexico.

U.S. Magistrate Volney V. Brown Jr. refused, however, to allow evidence about the purported political nature of the charges into the record or to allow testimony by two American professors sought by Zimmerman to explain the charges in a "historical context."

Brown based his ruling on objections made by U.S. Department of Justice extradition specialist Drew Arena, who is prosecuting the case with Assistant U.S. Atty. J. Stephen Czuleger. Arena argued that the decision about whether the charges were politically motivated is an issue properly decided not by the courts but by the State Department, which can take such claims into consideration if Brown rules that there is probable cause to extradite him.

The magistrate did permit Zimmerman to outline his argument for purposes of appeal and to display a series of "sensationalized" Mexican comics that portray the portly former chief as a demonic figure who engaged in torture, prostitution, narcotics smuggling and other crimes.

One such comic, called "The Hell of Durazo," is labeled "the most incredible, cruel and sensational history of vice, corruption and death." The cover shows Durazo torturing a prisoner with a fiery rod in one hand and a gleam in his eye.

Zimmerman also said that two professors would have explained that each Mexican administration historically singles out an official from the previous system to prosecute on corruption charges in an attempt to make a clean break with prior administrations.

For example, he said, the two planned to testify that the dozens of imported items (such as crystal ashtrays and marble figurines) found in Durazo's homes were not smuggled into Mexico by Durazo but were "the kinds of gifts which high-level Mexican officials receive and were expected to give other officials until the law was changed under the current government of Mexico."

Monday's arguments marked the fourth and final day of the first phase of courtroom proceedings in the case. On Wednesday, Brown is expected to rule on whether to hear additional testimony about claims by the defense that the statute of limitations has passed on two of the charges.

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