Mexican authorities have placed 11 people in maximum security prisons for protesting the disappearance of 43 teaching students in the country.
The detained protesters — mostly students who were arrested Thursday during a massive demonstration in Mexico City — are currently accused of attempted homicide, criminal association, and mutiny, local outlets reported. The Mexico City protest turned violent when protesters began throwing Molotov cocktails and burning an effigy of President Enrique Peña Nieto.
But the families of the detained students said police had arbitrarily arrested and hit them, and that the group had been prohibited from hiring a lawyer other than the government's public defense attorney.
Human rights defenders also denounced the drastic measure, and a lawyer for Mexico's Institute for Human Rights and Democracy requested that the government share videos that prove the protesters are indeed guilty. The lawyer, Alejandra Jimenez, said the government had attempted to "criminalize" the protests by imprisoning the demonstrators.
"In this moment of tension that the country currently is living, if the Attorney General wants to recuperate his credibility, he should stop employing the penal system for political use," Jimenez said in a press conference Sunday. "And the government should stop employing the Attorney General for political use."
The detention of the students — three women and eight men, including a Chilean musician —sparked further outrage from Mexicans around the country, who decried the government's move as outrageous.
The women are being held in a prison in the western state Nayarit, while the men are in the eastern state of Veracruz. It was not immediately clear when they would have the chance to appear in court.
"Why in Mexico are the students taken to maximum security prisons," one person asked on Twitter, "while the criminals remain free because of the politicians?"
Porque en México los estudiantes los llevan a reclusorios de máxima seguridad y los criminales están libres empezando por los políticos
— Junior Caballero (@JuniorCaballer7)November 23, 2014
Another person tweeted a banner that read "justice, not impunity," for the 11 imprisoned protesters.
Chileans also took passionately to social media to insist that Laurence Maxwell Ilabaca — a musician and documentary filmmaker — had been unjustly arrested while riding his bicycle near the protest.
"Laurence was riding his bike in the colonial center [of Mexico City] when he found himself taken by a turbulence of protestors," Chilean students told local outlet El Desconcierto. They insisted he was only passing through and got stuck in the crowds.
"My cousin is arbitrarily detained in Mexico," Ilabaca's cousin tweeted. "We demand his freedom!"
The Chilean government has pledged to support Ilabaca. A video posted yesterday that argues for Ilabaca's freedom has already drawn more than 25,000 views.
But the Mexican government told local outlets that Ilabaca was one of the most violent protesters. Officials initially accused the 11 students of terrorism, but have since rescinded the charge.
Thursday's demonstrations were only part of the ongoing protests that have taken place since 43 students were abducted September 26 in Iguala. Corrupt police allegedly abducted students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School, then handed them over to members of the Guerreros Unidos cartel, who claim to have killed the students and burned their bodies.
Follow Meredith Hoffman on Twitter: @merhoffman