A former Mexican attorney general has been arrested by prosecutors in connection with the 2014 disappearance of 43 students in Mexico’s Guerrero state, believed to have been murdered by the cartel.
A further 83 arrest warrants – against 33 local police officers, 11 state police officers, 20 army officers and 14 gang members – were also issued.
The mass kidnapping occurred on September 26, 2014, when 43 male student teachers from the rural village of Ayotzinapa were arrested by corrupt Iguala police on their way to a demonstration before being handed over to the Guerreros United Cartel.
Jesus Murillo Karam was Attorney General under former President Enrique Pena Nieto from 2012 to 2015.
Former Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam was arrested in connection with the 2014 disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero state, Mexico, who are believed to have been murdered by the cartel
It is the first time in recent history that a former Attorney General has been arrested and is one of the largest mass arrests of Mexican Army soldiers by civilian prosecutors.
The office of current Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero said Murillo Karam has been charged with torture, misconduct and forced disappearance.
In 2020, Gertz Manero said Murillo Karam was implicated in the crime by “staging a massive media ploy” and citing a “general cover-up” of the case.
His arrest comes a day after a commission set up to investigate what happened said the army was at least partially responsible in the case.
The office of current Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero said Murillo Karam has been charged with torture, misconduct and forced disappearance. File photo shows Murillo Karam in October 2014 in a press office after the disappearance
A soldier was said to have infiltrated the group of students involved, and when the army learned the kidnappings were taking place, they made no attempt to stop the crime.
Corrupt local police officers, other security forces and members of a drug gang abducted the students in the city of Iguala, Guerro state.
The motive for the kidnappings is still unknown eight years later.
Their bodies have never been found, but charred bone fragments have been attributed to three of the students.
Christian Rodriguez was one of three students positively identified by DNA analysis of the bone fragment from the University of Innsbruck in Austria. He was one of 43 students kidnapped by suspected members of the Guerreros cartel in 2014
Murillo Karam, under pressure to solve the case quickly, revealed in 2014 that the students had been killed and their bodies burned by members of the drug gang at a dump in nearby Cocula.
He then said the gang dumped the burned bone fragments in the river – he called the hypothesis “the historical truth”.
Subsequent investigations by the independent and Attorney General’s offices, confirmed by the Truth Commission, dismissed the idea that the bodies were incinerated at the Cocula landfill.
These investigations concluded that instances of torture, improper arrest and misuse as evidence allowed most gang members involved in the crime to walk free.
The incident took place near a major military base and independent investigations have shown that members of the military were aware of what was happening.
The students’ families have long requested that soldiers be involved in the investigation.
The 43 student teachers of Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in 2014
On Thursday, the commission investigating the case said one of the kidnapped students was a soldier who had infiltrated the radical faculty, but the army was not looking for him despite having real-time information on the kidnapping.
The commission said the inaction violated army protocols for missing soldier cases.
The Department of Defense did not respond to requests for comment.
The arrest warrant against the 83 other participants began yesterday. The soldiers, police officers and gang members face charges of murder, torture, misconduct, criminal association and enforced disappearance.
A demonstration in Mexico City in September 2019 to mark the fifth anniversary of the students’ disappearance
Before the reform of Mexican law, the army was allowed to refer soldiers accused of wrongdoing to separate military courts, but now soldiers must be tried in civilian courts if their crimes affect civilians.
The Institutional Revolutionary Party, to which both Murillo Karam and Pena Nieto belonged, wrote on its Twitter account that the former attorney general’s arrest was “more a matter of politics than action,” before adding, “This action helps the Victims’ families didn’t get answers’.
Mexican federal prosecutors had previously issued arrest warrants for members of the military and federal police, as well as for Tomas Zeron, who was the head of the Mexican federal investigative agency at the time of the kidnapping.
Zeron is wanted for torture and covering up enforced disappearances.
He fled to Israel and Mexico asked the Israeli government for help in his arrest.
Gertz Manero said that in addition to Zeron’s alleged crimes related to the case, there are also allegations that he stole more than $44 million from the attorney general’s budget.