Mexico’s former attorney general was arrested in connection with the 2014 disappearance of 43 students, the most high-profile individual detained so far in the notorious case that has haunted the country ever since.
Jesús Murillo was arrested Friday at his Mexico City home, charged with enforced disappearance, torture and obstruction of justice in the kidnapping and disappearance of student teachers in the southwestern state of Guerrero, now believed to be like a “state-sponsored crime”.
Murillo was taken to an attorney general’s office and would be transferred to a Mexico City jail, authorities said.
Hours after the arrest, a judge issued 83 other arrest warrants for soldiers, police, Guerrero officials and gang members in connection with the case, the attorney general’s office said.
During Murillo’s 2012-2015 tenure under then-President Enrique Peña Nieto, he oversaw the much-criticized investigation into the September 26, 2014 disappearance of students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College.
The remains of only three students have been found and identified, and questions have remained unanswered ever since.
International experts said the official investigation was riddled with errors and abuses, including the torture of witnesses. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office in 2018 promising to clarify what happened.
López Obrador’s administration has been trying since 2020 to arrest another former senior official, Tomas Zeron, including asking Israel last year to extradite him.
Asked about the government’s decision to review the past investigation, Murillo said he was satisfied and ready for questioning, local media reported in 2020.
Murillo was taken into custody wearing black pants, his hands clasped in the pockets of a gray jacket, as a law enforcement officer with a rifle slung across his chest stood behind, showed an image published by local media.
The attorney general’s office said Murillo cooperated “without resistance.”
The arrest comes a day after Mexico’s top human rights official, Alejandro Encinas, called the disappearances a “state crime” with the involvement of local, state and federal officials.
“What happened? An enforced disappearance of the boys that night by government authorities and criminal groups,” Encinas told a press conference. orchestrated a cover-up, he said, including altering crime scenes and obscuring links between authorities and criminals.
Murillo took over the Ayotzinapa case in 2014 and called the government’s findings “historical truth”.
According to this version, a local drug gang mistook the students for members of a rival group, killed them, cremated their bodies in a landfill, and dumped the remains in a river.
A panel of international experts punched holes in the story and the United Nations denounced arbitrary detentions and torture during the investigation.
“Historical truth” eventually became synonymous with perceived corruption and impunity under Peña Nieto as anger mounted over the lack of answers.
Murillo, who had previously served as a federal legislator and governor of the state of Hidalgo, resigned in 2015 as criticism mounted over his handling of the case.
The lawyer for the parents of the Ayotzinapa students, Vidulfo Rosales, urged the government to make more arrests. He told Mexican television: “There is still a long way to go before we can think this case has been resolved.”