New York, NY, February 7, 2002—Writers throughout North America hailed the release of a Mexican general jailed for more than eight years for essays advocating human rights reforms for the armed forces in Mexico. PEN centers in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and Quebec called the abrupt release of Brigadier General José Francisco Gallardo Rodríguez two weeks before his case was to go before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights “the culmination of a tireless campaign by Gallardo’s family and human rights champions around the world, and the most heartening sign yet that President Vicente Fox intends to keep his often-quoted promises to lead Mexico into a new era of respect for human rights and international law.”

Mexican poet Homero Aridjis, President of International PEN, hailed General Gallardo’s release as “an important victory for freedom of speech and a significant advance of justice in Mexico. PEN Centers worldwide who defended Gallardo’s cause during the past eight years now celebrate his liberation. He is a Mexican Dreyfus.”

“We congratulate General Gallardo and his family and commend them for their courage through eight years of unjust imprisonment,” said representatives of PEN Canada and PEN American Center in a joint statement. “General Gallardo’s refusal to be silenced despite a Kafkaesque legal ordeal has been an inspiration to human rights activists in Mexico and around the world, and his release gives rise to the hope that the reforms he has long advocated may indeed come to pass.”

Gallardo was arrested in October 1993, one week after his Master’s thesis entitled “The Need for a Military Ombudsman in Mexico” was excerpted in the Mexican magazine Forum. In 1996, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reviewed his case and concluded that he was imprisoned “without reason and legal justification,” and two years later the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions declared that he was being arbitrarily detained. Frustrated by the Mexican government’s refusal to comply with its 1996 recommendations and concerned for Gallardo’s safety in prison, the IACHR petitioned the Inter-American Court in December to grant Gallardo emergency measures. The Court accepted the case and had ordered the Mexican government to appear at a hearing in San Jose, Costa Rica on February 18, 2002.

Upon his release tonight from prison, the General commended the more than 50 NGOs that had supported him including International PEN, which from the beginning had called his arrest and imprisonment a clear violation of his right to freedom of expression.

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660, ext. 105