Update: Community police leader Nestora Salgado released from Mexican prison

Update 11:40 a.m. March 18:

Nestora Salgado walked out of jail Friday morning.

“We will keep fighting against repression,” she told news media and supporters as she left Tepepan Prison, Latin American news organization TeleSUR reported.

Campaigners for Salgado’s release plan to hold a victory rally in front of Seattle’s Mexican Consulate at 2132 3rd Avenue at noon Saturday March 26, to demand the release of others who they say are unjustly jailed.

Congressman Adam Smith, who has been advocating her release for more than a year, congratulated her family.

“The family and friends of Nestora Salgado have been unrelenting in their pursuit of justice for Nestora. Today, after over two years of wrongful imprisonment, and a recent UN decision calling Nestora’s detention illegal and arbitrary, the false charges against Nestora have been dropped by Mexican authorities. Nestora has been released from prison and is now able to return home to the United States,” he said in a prepared statement.

Original story posted 10:30 p.m. March 17:

After more than two years in jail in Mexico, Nestora Salgado may have her freedom as soon as Friday. A judge on Thursday evening dismissed new charges filed against her. The ruling cleared the way for the Renton grandmother, who led a community police force in her hometown of Olinala in Mexico, to leave prison after 31 months in jail.

Her husband, Jose Luis Avila, credited the grassroots and international support for her freedom.

“We showed that by mobilizing indigenous organizations, unions, and human rights activists on both sides of the border we were able to win a victory over the corrupt Mexican government,” he told reporters in a prepared statement.

Salgado, a naturalized U.S. citizen who has lived in the Seattle area for 20 years, has been behind bars after being accused by the state of Guerrero of kidnapping. Mexico’s federal courts dropped similar charges filed against her last year, according to her lawyers, but state prosecutors in the state of Guerrero continued to pursue the kidnapping case, keeping her in prison.

Immediately after the kidnapping case was dismissed last week for a lack of evidence, Guerrero prosecutors added new charges, including murder. But a Guerrero judge dismissed the new charges on Thursday evening, clearing the way for Salgado’s release.

Among those who have demanded Salgado’s release were human rights advocates, recently elected Guerrero Gov. Rogelio Ortega Martinez, and 13 Mexican senators, along with her supporters and family in Washington state, including resolutions by the cities of Renton and Seattle.

Last month, a UN body ruled that Salgado’s detention was illegal, because the vigilante group was protected under Mexican law and because she was not given access to her family, her attorneys or adequate medical care, according to a story in The Guardian.

“The recent United Nations decision that found her detention illegal was a key catalyst in this process,” said one of her human rights attorneys, Thomas Antkowiak of the International Human Rights Clinic at Seattle University in an emailed statement on Thursday night. “This and the perseverance of her many supporters, both in the US and Mexico, will obtain long-overdue freedom and justice for Nestora.”

Before her release, Salgado pledged to continue to fight against injustice and corruption in Mexico and for others in Mexico who are imprisoned unjustly in Guerrero.

My fight isn’t for Nestora. Nestora was fine in Washington,” she told the Globalist last fall in a jailhouse interview. “My fight is ‘comun’ (for everyone).”

Salgado had returned to her hometown of Olinala in Guerrero several years ago, and started an indigenous community police force. Her lawyers say such a militia group for policing is allowed under Mexican law.

Guerrero state attorney general Miguel Ángel Godínez Muñoz and other Mexican authorities maintained Salgado crossed the line when the group detained three teenagers accused of cocaine-dealing and a town official. Salgado says they worked closely with drug cartels.

Initially, she had been kept in solitary confinement until last year, after she brought attention to her lack of medical care for ongoing health issues through a hunger strike. She was moved to a Mexico City women’s prison with medical facilities.

Salgado and her family had told the Globalist she was looking forward to a day in court to prove her innocence. But she remained behind bars and her trial delayed for months as her accusers failed to show up in court to testify against her.

This story will be updated with additional information.

Additional coverage:

UN rules Nestora Salgado illegally detained in Mexico

Meeting La Comandante: a jailhouse interview with Nestora Salgado

Nestora Salgado accusers fail to appear in court; supporters mark anniversary

Nestora Salgado’s family prepares for long court fight in Mexico in vigilante case

More coverage of Nestora Salgado on The Seattle Globalist