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Mexico ex-president arrested on genocide charges

[JURIST] Former Mexican president Luis Echeverria [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive] was under house arrest Saturday after a Mexican appeals court ruled Friday that it had enough evidence to charge him with genocide in connection with his role in putting down a 1968 student revolt [backgrounder] in which dozens, perhaps even hundreds [backgrounder, documents], of protesters were killed by police and military officers. Echeverria was Interior Minister at the time. He served as president of Mexico [JURIST news archive] between 1970 and 1976, and became notorious for fighting a "dirty war" against Mexican leftists. He is now 84.

Rights groups say that as many as 300 protestors may have been killed when government forces fired on the students. Echeverria has long denied any wrongdoing in the incident. The arrest warrant came two days before Mexicans elect a new president [press release; electoral commission website] to replace retiring Vicente Fox [official profile]. Fox, candidate of the opposition PANA party that beat Echeverria's PNI in 2000, has made the Echeverria prosecution a cause celebre of his presidency but had to this point failed to secure an arrest. In June 2005 the Mexican Supreme Court [official website] ruled 3-2 that Echeverria could be prosecuted, but judges refused to issue arrest warrants on two previous occasions, most recently in September 2005 [JURIST reports], when a court rejected a prosecutor's bid [JURIST report] claiming that the statute of limitations for genocide had run out and that the 1968 killings did not qualify as genocide. Reuters has more. From Mexico City, El Universal has local coverage [in Spanish].

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