May 25, 2011

Lic. Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, C.P. 11850
Distrito Federal, México
Fax: (+ 52 55) 5093 4901/ 5277 2376
 
Lic. Marisela Morales Ibañez
Procuradora General de la República
Av. Paseo de Reforma No. 211-213, Piso 16
Col. Cuauhtémoc, Defegacion Cuautémoc
México D.F. C.P. 06500
Fax: + 52 55 53 46 0908

Dr Gustavo Salas Chávez
Fiscal Especial para la Atención de Delitos Cometidos contra Periodistas (FEADP)
Email: feadp@pgr.gob.mx

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to welcome the release from prison of journalist Jesús Lemus Barajas; however, we remain concerned for his safety in Mexico.

According to our information, on May 11, 2011, Jesús Lemus Barajas, journalist and publisher of the Michoacán-based daily newspaper El Tiempo, was finally acquitted of drug trafficking charges and released after serving three years in a high-security federal prison in Puente Grande, Jalisco state, due to lack of evidence. A Guanajuato state judge ruled that “Considering that there are no grounds for even the least suspicion that [Lemus] was linked to drug trafficking or organized crime activities, he is absolved of all charges and is given an acquittal.” A 20-year prison sentence handed to Lemus by another Guanajuato state judge in January 2011 was reportedly overturned.

Following his release, Lemus said he believes he was arrested because of his journalistic work exposing the links between the Mexican state and drug cartels and that the authorities had failed to recognize that he was a professional journalist during his trial. He also said that he felt unsafe in Mexico and intended to apply for asylum in the United States or another country.

Lemus was arrested on May 7, 2008, while investigating drug trafficking routes in Cuerámaro, Guanajuato state, and accused of involvement in trade for “The Family,” an offshoot of the powerful El Golfo drug cartel. Lemus was detained incommunicado for 48 hours by Guanajuato state ministerial police, who reportedly beat him. He was transferred to Puente Grande 20 days later, on May 27, 2008.

PEN American Center welcomes the acquittal and release of Jesús Lemus Barajas, but remains seriously concerned that he was imprisoned for three years without any evidence before a judge overturned the ruling, and that Lemus now fears for his safety in Mexico. We therefore call on authorities to launch an independent inquiry into Lemus’s case and to provide him with protection as well as compensation for his arbitrary detention. We also urge federal authorities to immediately implement the journalist protection mechanisms promised in November 2010.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

Respectfully,

Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan Casamitjana
Embassy of Mexico
1911 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20006
Fax: (202) 728-1698

>> Back to Rapid Action