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Warrant issued for Mexico's ex-head of investigations

by E. Eduardo Castillo
| March 18, 2020 6:59 PM


Parents and relatives of the 43 missing teachers college students hold banners depicting their loved ones as they give a press conference at the national palace in Mexico City, Thusday, Jan. 9, 2020. Family members met with Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for to call for justice more than five years after the Ayotzinapa students were allegedly taken from buses by local police and turned over to a drug gang. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A Mexican judge issued an arrest warrant for the former head of investigations for the Attorney General's Office for alleged violations in the investigation of the case of 43 college students who disappeared in 2014, officials said Wednesday.

Tomas Zerón and five other former officials face charges including torture, forced disappearance and judicial misconduct. Three have been arrested and three, including Zerón, are still at large.

Zerón oversaw the criminal investigation agency of the Attorney General's Office and also its forensic work in the case. The students' bodies have never been found, though a burned bone fragment matched one student.

Many of the suspects arrested in the case were later released, and many claimed they had been tortured by police or the military. The current administration, which took office Dec. 1, 2018, has pledged to re-open the case.

Federal officials who were not authorized to be quoted by name said that a warrant was issued for Zerón's arrest and that Interpol had been notified to help locate him in case he was outside of Mexico. One of the officials said there were indications that Zerón may have left for Canada in late 2019, but it was unclear whether he later traveled elsewhere.

Zerón's investigation had long been criticized by the families of the 43 teachers' college students who disappeared in September 2014 after they were detained by local police in Iguala, in the southern state of Guerrero. They were allegedly handed over to a drug gang and slain, and have not been heard from since.

Zerón was at the center of the government's widely criticized investigation, which has failed to definitively determine what happened to the students. Two independent teams of experts have cast doubt on the insistence of Mexican officials that the students bodies were incinerated in a huge fire at a trash dump.

The students attended the Rural Normal School of Ayotzinapa. They were in Iguala on Sept. 26, 2014, to hijack buses to use for transportation to a rally in Mexico City. They were attacked on the buses by local police and allegedly handed over to members of the Guerreros Unidos cartel.

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