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Mexican president suffers court reverse, tensions rise



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MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s Supreme Court partially abolished President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s ‘jail, no bail’ policy on Thursday.

Courts voted against mandatory pretrial detention for those accused of fraud, smuggling or tax evasion. Because trials often span many years in Mexico, the judges argued that being held in prison during the trial was tantamount to serving a penalty before being convicted.

Instead, prosecutors will have to convince the judges that there are good reasons not to release those they claim to be – by arguing, for example, that they could risk leaving the country. hide. Judges could vote next week on whether the possibility of a pre-trial release could be justified for other charges.

In 2019, López Obrador imposed mandatory pre-trial detention for a long list of crimes, which he sees as part of a campaign to crack down on white-collar criminals, such as those accused of tax fraud. Mexico doesn’t have bail, but before López Obrador changes the rules, judges can release suspects and ask them to wear monitors, sign in in court or agree not to travel.

The president has long criticized corrupt judges and court rulings he dislikes, and Thursday’s high court vote is likely to spark more vocal attacks by the president. President.

Even before the ruling, López Obrador criticized the court for Thursday’s widely expected vote.

“How can judges, magistrates and magistrates defend white-collar criminals? How can money win against justice?” López Obrador spoke before the verdict. “How shameless!”

The president has not been shy about accusing lower court judges of drug-dropping and other suspects on procedural or technical points with which he clearly disagrees. Underpaid and often threatened, Mexican prosecutors often don’t bring strong cases or make intentional or unintentional mistakes.

“They released them because the prosecution file was poorly written, or for any other reason, any other reason,” the president said, “because they became very, very, very focused. focus on the good points of the law.”

López Obrador fought with the courts, frequently attacking their legitimacy and criticizing judges personally for contempt, because the courts often thwarted some of the president’s key initiatives. system.

Observers argue that the courts acted because López Obrador regularly passed laws that openly contradicted the country’s Constitution or international treaties.

In the past, the president has focused much of his outrage on the lower courts. On Thursday at a news conference with López Obrador, Ricardo Mejia, Mexico’s assistant minister of public safety, said the administration would recommend bringing criminal charges against a judge who ordered the release of a prosecutor. suspected drug cartel leader.

But much of the president’s anger on Thursday was directed at the Supreme Court, which is about to hear an appeal by a group that says government money and property should not be used to make nativity scenes, a staples in Mexico.

The appeal says that the government’s involvement in the display of nativity scenes violates the constitutional separation between church and state.

The president angrily denied that, although the court has not ruled on the matter.

“That’s an example. Why go against the fine traditions and customs of the nation?” López Obrador said.

López Obrador has expanded the list of offenses that require a suspect to be held pending trial to 16 counts, including some nonviolent crimes that can be convicted in just a few months — much less than the amount of time that most people spend awaiting trial.

Only about two out of 10 people accused of crimes in Mexico have ever been convicted. That means that out of an estimated 92,000 suspects held pending trial – often in the same cells as hard-line criminals – around 75,000 will not be convicted despite sometimes being locked up for years in prison. dangerous, overcrowded prisons of Mexico.

Trials in Mexico can be surprisingly lengthy. Two men were recently freed with ankle monitors after serving 17 years in prison while on trial for murder.

Being placed in Mexican prisons, which are overcrowded, underfunded and controlled by gangs, can be hell for those in pre-trial detention, who often end up in prison no prison intelligence or no gang affiliation.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention says that “mandatory pre-trial detention violates international human rights standards.”

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