A Mexican judge has indicted 10 Federal Police officers in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez on a raft of charges, including extortion and kidnapping, officials said.
Judge Carlos Miguel Garcia Treviño formally accused the officers Wednesday after finding sufficient evidence of their involvement in crimes that also included causing bodily injury, abuse of authority, illegal weapons possession and crimes against health.
The officers were identified as Isaac Moreno Hernandez, Nicasio Garcia, Santiago Reyes Flores, Jose Juan Fuentes Rodriguez, Angel Miguel Cruz, Marcelo Xolo Ramirez, Raul Carrillo Perez, Agustin Tapia Felix, Alejandro Morales Lopez and Olegario Hernandez Ramos.
The judged based his decision on testimony from a Ciudad Juarez businessman who accused the officers of extortion and kidnapping and from agents with the federal Attorney General’s Office who arrested the suspects on Sept. 20.
Drugs and weapons were found in the officers’ possession at the time they were detained, although they said they had seized them after making an arrest.
The businessman accused the police of demanding a $5,000 payment in exchange for not planting drugs on him, as well as of kidnapping and beating him and stealing his bank cards.
Tens of thousands of Federal Police officers and army soldiers have been deployed in recent years to Mexican states to replace poorly paid, notoriously corrupt local cops.
Some 5,000 federal forces have been sent to Ciudad Juarez, which has been battered in recent years by a turf war pitting the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels with backing from local street gangs.
The Mexican chapter of London-based rights group Amnesty International last week issued an alert about a case of eight men from one Mexican family who were “disappeared” earlier this year in Chihuahua state, where Juarez is located, by a group of armed men wearing uniforms – one of which had “Federal Police” written on it.
AI said female relatives of the men reported the incident to the Chihuahua state Attorney General’s Office but that “evidence of police involvement was left out” of the official report.
Amnesty noted that Chihuahua has been especially hard hit in recent years by drug-related violence, which has claimed more than 40,000 lives nationwide since President Felipe Calderon took office in late 2006 and militarized the struggle against numerous heavily armed, well-funded drug cartels.
The rights group said “reports of human rights violations by military and police have risen sharply” in Chihuahua, including “arbitrary detention, torture, unlawful killings and enforced disappearances.”
It added that “some authorities have tried to attribute abuses committed by state agents to criminal gangs.”