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Government Trying to Discredit Critical Report on Disappeared Students, Lawyer Says

The lawyer who represents parents' of the students says a key detainee never confessed to ordering the murder of the students, as an official claimed.
By Hans-Maximo Musielik

Mexico's government is releasing false information to bolster its widely-questioned conclusion that 43 student teachers were incinerated in a garbage dump after being disappeared a year ago, according to a human rights lawyer representing the missing young men's families.

Mario Patrón, director of the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, told VICE News he believed this is part of a strategy designed to undermine a recent report by international experts that concluded the garbage dump hypothesis is "scientifically impossible."


"They have released biased information with the purpose of strengthening their own theory," he said of the case that continues to generate anger and incredulity in Mexico and internationally. "They are trying to tarnish the work of the group of experts."

Related: In Photos: A Call For Justice On the Streets of Mexico City for 'More Than' 43 Missing

The experts were assembled by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. Their report, released in early September, was publicly accepted by President Enrique Peña Nieto who said he was sure it would help "clear up the truth of what really happened."

But Patrón said the government's reluctance to embrace the report's findings is clear in its handling of the recent detention of the alleged leader of the Guerreros Unidos drug gang in the city of Iguala, where the students were disappeared on September 26 2014 after they were attacked by municipal police.

The government investigation had named Gildardo López Astudillo, alias "El Cabo Gil," as the link between Guerreros Unidos and corrupt local authorities. During the night of the attacks he is said to have given the order to murder and disappear the students.

The authorities detained "El Gil," on September 17, and this week charged him with kidnapping the students.

"The detainee acknowledged his participation in the events, which is technically known as a qualified confession," Renato Sales, Mexico's national security commissioner, said in an interview on Radio Fórmula.


Patrón, however, said he knows this is not true because his team of lawyers have full access to the case files and were present when El Gil gave his declaration to the authorities.

"El Gil did not confess," Patrón said. "He did not mention anything about the garbage dump, and he denied taking part in the events."

The human rights group also questions the decision to publicly release an inconclusive report from a specialist forensic lab in Innsbruck, Austria, where the government had sent badly burned remains found in a river that it said came from a pyre where the students were incinerated on a pyre in the garbage dump.

The lab, which had previously identified one of the missing students from a bone fragment, said that a possible match also existed with another student. This lead to multiple news stories about a second identification.

"It's a moderate match," Patrón said. "It is not enough to confirm the genetic identity."

The release of the experts' report boosted the parents' conviction that the government's investigation is all but worthless.

At a meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto on September 24 they demanded the creation of a special new unit that would both explore alternative lines of investigation in the search for their children, as well as pursue officials for obstructing justice in the investigation so far.

Peña Nieto responded by creating a special prosecutor for all cases of disappearance, instead of making one that would deal exclusively with the students' case.

Related: Ayotzinapa: A Timeline of the Mass Disappearance That Has Shaken Mexico

Follow Melissa del Pozo on Twitter: @melissadps