Mexican generals linked to drug gangs lose appeal

MEXICO CITY Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:33pm EST

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A Mexican court said on Wednesday that two army generals, one retired and one still serving, should remain in jail and face trial in one of the highest-profile cases linking the military to organized crime.

Retired General Tomas Angeles and General Roberto Dawe were arrested in May of last year and turned over to the country's organized crime unit for investigation.

The court rejected an appeal by the generals, who were senior figures in the government's crackdown against drug cartels under former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, whose term in office ended at the start of December.

Angeles was No. 2 in the armed forces when Calderon, a conservative, sent in the army against the cartels shortly after taking office in late 2006. Angeles retired in 2008.

Dawe, still an active general, led an elite army unit in the western state of Colima.

If the generals were convicted of drug trafficking, it would be the most serious case of military corruption in Calderon's administration, which was dominated by the fight on drug gangs.

A third general who has been implicated in the drug trade, Ruben Perez Ramirez, led the military zone in the State of Mexico when new President Enrique Pena Nieto was governor of the populous region that borders the capital.

Retired Colonel Silvio Isidro de Jesus Hernandez and Major Ivan Reyna have also been accused of protecting the Beltran Leyva cartel, once one of the main cocaine smugglers from Mexico into the United States.

Around 70,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since 2006.

(Reporting by Anahi Rama, writing by Cyntia Barrera Diaz, editing by Philip Barbara)