MEXICO CITY — The former attorney general who oversaw Mexico’s initial investigation into the 2014 disappearances of 43 students from a radical teachers’ college will face trial for enforced disappearance, failure to report torture and official misconduct, has decided a judge on Wednesday.
Former attorney general Jesus Murillo Karam acknowledged there may have been ‘errors’ in the investigation, but said that in the eight years since, no one has been found. able to prove another version of what happened to students in the town of Iguala, in the state of Guerrero.
Murillo Karam, 74, served as attorney general from 2012 to 2015, under President Enrique Peña Nieto. He was arrested by agents from the office he headed last week for allegedly creating a fake version of student disappearances.
The judge also ruled that Murillo Karam will remain in jail as the case progresses.
Murillo Karam announced in 2014 that the students were abducted by local police, handed over to a drug gang, killed, their bodies burned in a landfill and the remains dumped in a river. He called it “historical truth.”
But independent investigations and the current attorney general’s office have dismissed this version. They claim that different levels of authority were involved, including security forces, and that evidence and crime scenes were altered. There have also been instances of torture, wrongful arrests and mishandling of evidence which have since enabled most of the gang members directly involved to go free.
On Wednesday, Murillo Karam told the judge there may have been ‘mistakes’, glitches and things they had done wrong, but no one had been able to come up with another version of what happened. to students.
He targeted a group of Argentine forensic experts who conducted their own investigation and raised questions about the government’s version of events.
“For six or seven years they looked for an alternative, they invented a lot of things and everything is falling apart,” Murillo Karam said.
Lawyers for Murillo Karam argued that the press conferences he gave while he was attorney general should not be taken into account in the judge’s decision because they violated his right not to incriminate himself and because that prosecutors were taking the statements out of context.
But prosecutors said Murillo Karam was aware of the torture of the suspects, was exceptionally present on the ground during the investigation and questioned the suspects, showing he was in control.
The missing were students at a teachers’ college called Ayotzinapa in the southern state of Guerrero. On September 26, 2014, the police took them off the buses in Iguala. The motive remains unclear eight years later. Their bodies were never found, although burnt bone fragments were matched to three of the students.
The incident happened near a large military base and independent investigations revealed that the military was aware of what was happening. The students’ families have long called for soldiers to be included in the investigation.
Last week, arrest warrants were issued for 20 soldiers and army officers, five local officials, 33 local and 11 state police officers as well as 14 gang members. Neither the military nor prosecutors have specified how many of those suspects are currently in custody.
Murillo Karam’s arrest was the first of a former attorney general in recent history.
In 2020, current attorney general Alejandro Gertz Manero said Murillo Karam had been involved in “orchestrating a massive media ploy” and conducting a “widespread cover-up” in the case.
His arrest came a day after a commission set up to determine what happened said the military bore at least partial responsibility in the case. He said a soldier infiltrated the group of students involved and that the army did not stop the kidnappings even though they knew what was going on.