A TEACHER who spent 21 years in a Mexico prison for a murder that never happened was set free after the alleged victim was found alive and well in the US.
Manuel Valdovinos said Mexican authorities still hadn’t apologised for the massive miscarriage of justice.
A teacher in Texcoco city in 2000, Manuel was arrested and allegedly confessed to murdering Manuel Martínez Elizalde.
He was sentenced to 41 years behind bars and was finally released last week when his alleged murder victim was found alive in the US.
Manuel has always maintained his innocence and claims police beat and tortured him into confessing for something he never done.
According to one local report, police took Manuel to a warehouse and hung him “by chains, beat him and gave him electric shocks, then they put him in a jar of ice water so that the attacks would not be noticed”.
Then, in 2006, a Mexican court threw out DNA evidence revealing the body used to convict Manuel was not Elizalde’s.
In a letter to Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who green-lighted his release, Manuel said: “Today I can tell you that after having been a victim of torture, arbitrary detention, the fabrication of a crime.
“I have come precisely from asking you or letting you know that we are joining as a team to work together to eradicate corruption within the courts, within the Judicial Branch that hopefully can be extended mainly to the state of Mexico, because Manuel Martínez Elizalde is alive and I was a victim of all that and I can verify it.”
The humble music teacher said he had seen many people “who had their freedom taken without legal support” during his time behind bars.
If they did not exert pressure with the hunger strike, I would not be standing here today
Pedro Cesar Carrizales, a politician in Mexico’s parliament, and activist Bryan LeBaron staged a successful a hunger strike outside the President’s residence in Mexico City to get Manuel released.
Carrizales said Manuel’s story inspired him “to become a social fighter, because there are many who fight against the consequences of torture and many more who were separated from their families.”
He added: ” Justice is not done for the poor, I feel inspired because [Manuel], apart from having that resentment towards the system, helped inside and taught them music. We are not just going to seek a fight for him… [we will] seek justice.”
After reviewing the case, a judicial committee ordered the immediate release of Manuel, who was received by his family at the gates of the Almoloya de Juarez prison.
Manuel said: “If they did not exert pressure with the hunger strike, I would not be standing here today.”
According to reports, during his 21 years behind bars, Valdovinos lost a child and several loved ones, and at one point “wished they would leave me for dead”.
He also said he still has a criminal record that will prevent him from seeking jobs.
It is unclear if his legal team plans to seek compensation for the wrongful imprisonment.