José Antonio Arreola and José Luis Jiménez are Purépecha indigenous rights defenders and members of the Consejo Ciudadano Indígena de Nahuatzen (Indigenous Citizens’ Council of Nahuatzen). The Indigenous Citizens’ Council is a direct democracy-style community government in the state of Michoacán, which began a process of gaining autonomous status for the indigenous community in 2015, and has worked to defend the rights of the indigenous people of Nahuatzen. José Antonio Arreola and José Luis Jiménez are part of the Indigenous Citizens’ Council, which, in 2017 was recognized as an indigenous authority by the Electoral Tribunal of the State of Michoacán and the Federal Government of Mexico. In addition, José Gerardo Talavera, who supports the council by renting out a space for it to carry out its functions, was also sentenced to prison on the same charge.
The three were arrested when they were evicted from the offices of the National Development Sistem (DIF), accused of stealing a vehicle and other objects that were in the offices a few days before.
José was arrested on November 11, 2018, in the city of Morelia. He is considered by the authorities to be the leader of the community movement, and the principal suspect. He is just a citizen of the community. He was violently detained, and beaten during his transfer to the prison. He was transferred to the district attorney’s office of Morelia. He was there for approximately one hour, and later transferred to the Eduardo Ruiz prison in Uruapan, Michoacán. It is unknown if he signed any statements, if any competent authorities read him his rights and let me know why he was arrested, or if he had access to a lawyer. He was later transferred to the Eduardo Ruiz prison of Uruapan. Here he has been held for much of the time in an isolation cell.
Their case number is 182/2018. Following a trial full of inconsistencies, including unsubstantiated evidence and witness statements that contradict facts, on 23 October 2019, the judge of the Centro de Reinserción Social (Centre for Social Reinsertion), Eduardo Ruiz, from Uruapan, Michoacán, ruled that the defenders committed the crime of “sabotage.” It is believed that the sentence against them is an act of retaliation against their work and that of the Indigenous Citizens’ Council of Nahuatzén, in the fight for self-determination for the Nahuatzén community. Their case is supported by the social organizations Serapaz and Red Solidaria.
In 2021, the highest court of justice in the nation determined that it will review the case. On February 9, 2022 Gerardo was released after the case was overturned by the court.