Court absolves soldiers in army killing of suspects

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A Mexican civilian court has freed three soldiers accused of homicide in a 2014 incident in which at least a dozen suspects were allegedly executed after they surrendered.

The federal Attorney General’s Office said late Friday the three were absolved of charges of homicide, cover-up and alteration of evidence.

The army reported in June 2014 that 22 presumed criminals had died in a clash with the army at a warehouse in the town of Tlatlaya west of Mexico City. It said only one soldier was wounded.

But questions emerged when The Associated Press found that evidence at the site didn’t match the army account of a clash with drug suspects. There was little evidence of a long gunbattle. Instead, the walls showed a repeated pattern of one or two closely placed bullet holes surrounded by spattered blood, giving the appearance that some of those killed had been standing against a wall and shot at about chest level.

The government’s Human Rights Commission later reported that its investigation determined that at least 12 and probably 15 people had been executed at the warehouse.

Three women who survived came forward to say that agents of the Mexico State prosecutor’s office had tortured them to support the army’s version.

Seven soldiers were detained and charged in both military and civilian courts. A civilian judge soon threw out charges against four of the soldiers, but the Attorney General’s Office said it would appeal. It was not immediately clear if the three soldiers affected by the new ruling were those initially left facing charges or those whose ruling was being appealed.

In October, a military court acquitted six of the seven soldiers charged with breach of discipline in the case, though the ruling was not made public until March, when it was obtained by a human rights organization. One soldier was convicted of disobeying orders and received a one-year sentence.