On March 26, 2006, a group of federal police belonging to the now-extinct Federal Investigation Agency (AFI) of the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) arrived in the community of Santiago Mexquititlán in the municipality of Amealco, Querétaro state. Without identifying themselves as state agents, they began to extort street vendors, who took them for criminals and gathered around to demand an end to these abuses. When the AFI agents’ superiors arrived, they promised to pay the vendors for the damages done by the agents.
Months later, federal agents arrested three innocent indigenous women – Jacinta Francisco Marcial, Alberta Alcántara Juan, and Teresa González Cornelio – for the supposed crime of having kidnapped six AFI agents on the day described above. This fabricted accusation had one purpose: to seek revenge on the indigenous community for not having let the agents get away with their abuses against the population.
After two years of delays, during which the federal agents did not show up at trial, the three indigenous women were sentenced to 21 years in prison by the Fourth District Judge in the city of Querétaro, in a case that exemplifies criminalization for being poor, indigenous, and female – three factors that add to any defendant’s already precarious situation. Since then, Center Prodh has defended the case, obtaining the liberation of the three women: in the case of Jacinta, the PGR dropped charges in September 2009.
In order to seek reparations for her unjust imprisonment, Jacinta sued the PGR. On May 28, 2014, the plenary of the Superior Chamber of the Federal Tribunal for Fiscal and Administrative Justice (TFJFA for its initials in Spanish) ruled by an 8-2 majority that the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) must pay Jacinta economic compensation for the moral and material damages caused by her unjust imprisonment during a period of more than three years, as well as offer her a public apology for having falsely accused her of kidnapping six armed federal agents.
However, the PGR appealed the judgment and requested that the Supreme Court decide the appeal. This represented yet another delay in access to justice for Jacinta. It was not until May 2016 that the favorable judgment was confirmed, meaning that the PGR must apologize to Jacinta and publicly recognize her innocence. The PGR has until September 2016 to comply with the judgment.