GUATEMALA CITY ( Associated Press) — An indigenous migrant who was accused of kidnapping and jailed in the northern Mexico border city, a free woman on Sunday after spending more than seven years in prison without trial as returned to their homeland Guatemala.
A Mexican court on Saturday ordered the immediate release of 35-year-old Juana Alonzo Santijo.
The court ruled that there was no coherent evidence against him, said Netzai Sandoval, the head of Mexico’s federal public defender’s office.
Sandoval, whose office took over defending Alonzo in 2021, argues she was tortured and forced to sign a confession she did not understand because she could not speak Spanish .
He said the Maya Chuz woman had left her village, San Mateo Ixtaton, to immigrate to the United States in 2014. He was detained by immigration officials while in the Mexican border city of Reynosa from McAllen, Texas, and one of the main smuggling points in the state of Tamaulipas.
Police then charged him with kidnapping and jailed him, Sandoval said. He said the allegations had not been translated into his chosen language until this year.
He was never convicted, never tried, and was placed in “pre-trial detention” at the time.
An advocacy campaign for her independence was supported by national and international groups and Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador, and the Tamaulipas Prosecutor’s Office withdrew the charges against her.
“This is a completely unusual case,” Sandoval said. All of her rights were violated because “she’s a woman, she’s an indigenous person, she’s an expatriate, she’s poor, and she doesn’t speak Spanish.”
An emotional Alonzo was welcomed by her family at the Guatemala City airport on Sunday, and fell into the arms of her father and her uncle. Her relatives helped her change from jeans to traditional regional clothing.
“It’s easy to go to prison, but it’s hard to get out of it,” Alonzo said in stopping the Spanish, which he learned while in prison.
“We are not stones, we are not plastic things.” He added.
An uncle, Pedro Alonzo, said she had fled in the hope of helping her family.
“Her crime was being unable to speak Spanish. Who will pay the price for that wound?” They said.
According to data from Mexico’s federal government, 43% of the people held in the country’s prisons have neither been convicted nor sentenced.