March 18, 2020 / 8:55 PM / 14 days ago

Mexico seeks Interpol detention order for ex-official in missing students probe

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico has asked Interpol to issue a red notice calling for the arrest of a former official who led the controversial probe into the 2014 disappearance and suspected murder of 43 student teachers, the attorney general’s office said.

Experts and parents of the victims have accused Tomas Zeron, who lead Mexico’s criminal investigation agency until his resignation in 2016, of manipulating the probe.

Zeron, who has denied wrongdoing, was thought to be in Canada, said a person familiar with the case who requested anonymity because it is still under investigation. Interpol’s red notices ask authorities worldwide to detain certain people pending possible extradition or other legal action.

Interpol did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

“For us, the order to arrest Zeron is very significant, this should have been done from the start,” said Felipe de la Cruz, father of one of the missing students.

Their abduction and apparent massacre is widely believed to have been committed by corrupt police working with a violent drug gang.

Mexican prosecutors said last September that they would probe the handling of the case by Zeron as well as former attorney general Jesus Murillo and top aide Jose Aaron Perez Carro.

The government’s inability to find the remains of the students and hold their attackers accountable battered the reputation of then-president Enrique Pena Nieto.

Current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has criticized how the case was handled, while a special prosecutor in his administration said authorities would “start from scratch” to unravel what happened.

The official account from his predecessor’s government states a drug gang killed the students after mistaking them for members of a rival group. It said the killers then incinerated their remains before dumping them in a nearby river.

Zeron’s team said in October 2014 that in the river it found a bone fragment belonging to the only one of the 43 students whose remains have been definitively identified.

However, a team of independent experts that picked holes in the account said that Zeron had visited the location a day earlier with an alleged gang member, without notifying the man’s lawyer or filing a report on his visit.

Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz, Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Alistair Bell

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