Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Twitter 'terror' charges dropped in eastern Mexico

Microblogging website Twitter was used to spread false reports of kidnappings, bomb threats and gunshots in Veracruz, Mexico.
Microblogging website Twitter was used to spread false reports of kidnappings, bomb threats and gunshots in Veracruz, Mexico.
  • NEW: "There is no crime. I did not injure anyone," one of the accused says
  • Authorities say state prosecutor dropped terrorism charges
  • Accusations stemmed from false rumors posted on social media
  • Attorney calls his clients' release "a success of society"
Xalapa, Mexico (CNN) -- Two people accused of posting false rumors on social media about school attacks in eastern Mexico walked free Wednesday after authorities dropped terrorism charges against them.
The pair had spent nearly a month behind bars. Wednesday morning the prosecutor in Veracruz state sent a request asking that authorities drop charges against them, the Coatepec municipal court and a human rights organization said.
Maria de Jesus Bravo Pagola and Gilberto Martinez Vera told reporters they were eager to see their families.
Bravo shouted "Thank God!" after the liberation order was issued. Martinez lifted his arms in relief.
The two were accused by the Veracruz government of posting false rumors on Twitter and Facebook about alleged school attacks on August 25.
Bravo, a journalist, told Wednesday that she posted information citizens had given her, and did not commit a crime.
How many deaths did my action produce? There is no crime. I did not injure anyone. What I tried to do was stop the violence,¨ she said.
Authorities in Veracruz originally said Bravo´s Facebook posts were among a series of online messages that fueled a chaotic scene in the Mexican port city.
One post claimed that five children were kidnapped. One mentioned bomb threats. Another described a helicopter firing gunshots at an elementary school. "Remain calm. I think that the children should be in their homes. Go get them," another post warned.
Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte initially accused those behind the messages of "terrorism." A charge of terrorism carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
But he later proposed the creation of a lesser crime in the state's penal code amid a firestorm of criticism from activists and human rights groups, who said the terrorism accusation -- and the possible punishment -- didn't fit the crime.
Lawmakers approved the new measure, creating a crime for disturbing the peace, on Tuesday.
Critics of the state government's response have said it could stifle social media, an increasingly common way to communicate about violence in Mexico at a time when some don't trust reports they're getting from the government or more traditional sources.
"In the last few years, social networks have played a very important role in generating this type of communication about possible attacks," Jorge Chabat, a security expert at Mexico's Center for Research and Teaching in Economics, told CNN earlier this month. "In some cases, the population does not have many other mechanisms to protect itself against actions of organized crime groups."
Attorney Fidel Ordonez Solana told that the state's interior minister called him to inform him that his clients would be freed.
He described his clients' release as "a success of society."
Bravo said she planned to spend the coming days physically recovering from her imprisonment and pursuing her journalism career once again.

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