20 in Chiapas case to go free

Associated Press

Mexico's Supreme Court ordered the release of 20 men convicted in the 1997 massacre of 45 Indian villagers in Chiapas state and new trials for six more, ruling Wednesday that prosecutors used illegal evidence.

Paramilitary fighters with alleged ties to government figures attacked a prayer meeting of Roman Catholic activists who sympathized with rebels demanding more rights for Indians. Over several hours on Dec. 22, 1997, the assailants killed 45 people.

The court cited irregularities such as the fact that suspects, largely speakers of the Tzotzil Indian language, were not provided with interpreters. Prosecutors also apparently showed the suspects' pictures to witnesses, who later identified the men as perpetrators.

The justices noted that they were not ruling on the guilt or innocence of the men.

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