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Mexico Releases Evangelicals Jailed For Massacre

By Stefan J. Bos

7/10/2006 Mexico (BosNewsLife) Open Doors, a Netherlands-based Christian rights group which negotiated with a special commission reviewing the case, said nine prisoners would be released “for good behavior” while 10 others saw a reduction of their 25-year prison sentence for the massacre in the village of Acteal in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

The 19 men will be placed in the “less strict prison” of San Christybal, which is closer to their hometowns, “to enable more private visits,” Open Doors said. Later this month an appeals court will decide the fate of 39 Christian prisoners.

At least half of the men jailed for the massacre are “evangelical Christians” and several of them “found Christ in prison,” Open Doors explained. Several human rights groups had questioned the evidence against the jailed men, mainly native Indians, who have been imprisoned since 1997 for what Open Doors called “political reasons.”

Investigators said it became clear that the 45 Tzotzil Indians, including pregnant women and children, were shot and killed by government-backed paramilitary forces who stormed a church where they were praying.

While Open Doors is pleased that at least some men charged with the 1997-massacre will be released, it expressed regret that they did were apparently not declared innocent. “It is sad that for political reasons they will not be rehabilitated,” said Open Doors official Klaas Muurling who was involved in the case. “We will have to accept their release on grounds of good behavior,” he added in a statement.

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