Migrant Activist Who Led Asylum Caravans Released From Jail In Mexico
UPDATE: 6:10 p.m., Sept. 5, 2018
Two activists who were arrested in Tijuana were released from jail Wednesday evening following a day of protests.
Alex Mensing of Pueblo Sin Fronteras said he attributes their release to pressure from human rights groups and the attention that the incident was receiving from Mexican and U.S. media.
"I think it was clear to everybody that the police had abused their authority ... they were under too much pressure to keep pretending there was any good reason for them to be in jail," Mensing said.
The Baja California state prosecutor's office said the activists were released because the alleged crime of "affront against authority" does not require jail time until the charges are investigated. He said the investigation is ongoing.
An organizer for a migrant rights group — the one that provoked the ire of President Trump for leading caravans of asylum seekers to the U.S. — is in a Tijuana jail on charges of "affronting police."
Irineo Mújica of Pueblo Sin Fronteras was taken into custody while demanding the release of a Honduran minor who had been arrested without committing a crime. Tijuana’s police director Mario Martinez and Pueblo Sin Fronteras leaders told KPBS the boy had been jailed for walking in a dangerous part of town on Tuesday night.
Martínez said Mújica and another member of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, Israel Lopez, were using loud and offensive language while demanding that the 17-year-old be freed.
When police moved to detain the protesting duo, Martínez said, the activists responded with kicks and punches. Pueblo Sin Fronteras members who witnessed the confrontation said they didn’t see Mújica or Lopez use violence. They said the police officers were the ones shoving them around while the activists were on the phone with the Baja California state commission on human rights to file a complaint.
The confrontation came days after Pueblo Sin Fronteras organized a march to protest police abuses against migrants in Tijuana. Mújica was supposed to have a meeting with police director Martínez to discuss these alleged abuses one-on-one on Wednesday. But the meeting was canceled because he is in jail. The Tijuana municipal code allows police to arrest people for transgressions as vague as “bothering people.”
Martínez said the activists were transferred to the custody of the state prosecutor for affronting police but that the charge is “not serious” and that they will likely be released by Thursday.
Pueblo Sin Fronteras leaders say the incident is indicative of a larger pattern of Tijuana police abuses against vulnerable people. They said the activists were arrested for defending a migrant who had been jailed without committing a crime.
“(The police) harass people constantly with impunity,” said volunteer and anthropologist Tristan Call. He said they tend to target poor people, particularly migrants.
KPBS has published a series of investigations into Tijuana police abuses against migrants.
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Martínez denied the allegation that the police department abuses migrants because they are vulnerable. He said the boy who was jailed was taken into custody for his own safety because he was in a crime-ridden area.
Call said the Baja California state commission on human rights is investigating the incident.