Prosecutor on Mexico's missing students case resigns

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The special prosecutor leading the Attorney General’s Office investigation into the abduction and disappearances of 43 students in southern Mexico in 2014 resigned Tuesday, raising concerns among the students' families and their advocates.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Omar Gómez Trejo, who had led the investigation since 2019, resigned over disagreements about procedures determining who should be arrested.

The announcement came one day after the families of the missing teacher college students marched on the eighth anniversary of their disappearances and at a time when revelations by a government Truth Commission have implicated the military.

Gómez Trejo had gained the trust of the families, but there had been indications of divisions within the Attorney General's Office.

The day before Gómez Trejo's resignation was made public, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights noted in a statement that his unit since August had lacked police assistance needed to collect evidence as well as personnel to formalize new charges and keep up with court proceedings. The body expressed concern and called for the special prosecutor's independence to be protected.

The Attorney General’s Office has come under fire for cancelling some 21 arrest orders for suspects -- including 16 members of the military -- without explanation and for sensitive portions of a Truth Commission report being leaked to the press.

That followed some advances in the case, including the arrest of former Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam and of the army officer who commanded the base in Iguala, Guerrero, at the time the students disappeared. He is now a retired general.

On Tuesday, attorneys representing members of the military in custody said they were investigating pursuing legal action against the head of the Truth Commission, Alejandro Encinas, who had said the former commander ordered the killing of some of the students days after their abduction.

At his daily news conference Tuesday, López Obrador alluded to there being “differences,” but added that all points of view are respected. He said Gómez Trejo “didn’t agree with the procedures that were followed to approve the arrest orders,” but did not elaborate.

The Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, a nongovernmental organization representing the students’ families, said in a statement Tuesday that Gómez Trejo’s resignation signaled unjustified interference by superiors in the Attorney General’s Office, including “rushed accusations and cancelled arrest orders.”

They expressed confidence in Gómez Trejo and his team’s work and called the developments “extremely concerning” for the pursuit of justice in the case.

At Monday’s march, the students’ families called for the resignation of Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero.

López Obrador voiced his continued support for Gertz Manero on Tuesday and said nothing would detail the investigation.

Karla Quintana, head of the government’s National Search Commission, said via Twitter that interference with the special prosecutor’s work violates the right to the truth and justice. She said Gómez Trejo “represented the very few spaces of independent and serious investigation” of human rights violations in Mexico.

Security forces abducted the students from buses in Iguala on Sept. 26, 2014, and turned them over to a local drug gang. New revelations implicate the military in the disappearances, but the motive for the students' abduction remains unclear, though there is growing evidence it involves police and military collusion with drug traffickers."