José Antonio Arreola and José Luis Jiménez are Purépecha indigenous rights defenders and members of the Consejo Ciudadano Indígena de Nahuatzen (Indigenous Citizens’ Council of Nahuatzen). The Indigenous Citizens’ Council is a direct democracy-style community government in the state of Michoacán, which began a process of gaining autonomous status for the indigenous community in 2015, and has worked to defend the rights of the indigenous people of Nahuatzen. José Antonio Arreola and José Luis Jiménez are part of the Indigenous Citizens’ Council, which, in 2017 was recognized as an indigenous authority by the Electoral Tribunal of the State of Michoacán and the Federal Government of Mexico. In addition, José Gerardo Talavera, who supports the council by renting out a space for it to carry out its functions, was also sentenced to prison on the same charge.
The three were arrested when they were evicted from the offices of the National Development Sistem (DIF), accused of stealing a vehicle and other objects that were in the offices a few days before.
José detained on November 12th, 2018, in the community of Nahuatzen. He is part of the public sanitation commission in the community. He was detained and treated with violence during his transfer to the prosecutor’s office and afterwards during his transfer to the prison. He was assaulted and beaten with arrogance by the police. He was taken to the regional prosecutor’s office in Uruapan and presented there at approximately 3:00 pm. He was read a document informing him of his supposed crimes. It is unknown whether he signed any statement, whether any competent authority read him his rights, or whether he had access to a lawyer. He was later transferred to the Eduardo Ruiz prison of Uruapan. Here he has been held for much of the time in an isolation cell.
Their case number is 182/2018. Following a trial full of inconsistencies, including unsubstantiated evidence and witness statements that contradict facts, on 23 October 2019, the judge of the Centro de Reinserción Social (Centre for Social Reinsertion), Eduardo Ruiz, from Uruapan, Michoacán, ruled that the defenders committed the crime of “sabotage.” It is believed that the sentence against them is an act of retaliation against their work and that of the Indigenous Citizens’ Council of Nahuatzén, in the fight for self-determination for the Nahuatzén community. Their case is supported by the social organizations Serapaz and Red Solidaria.
In 2021, the highest court of justice in the nation determined that it will review the case. The court ruled for the immediate release of José Antonio Arreola and José Luis Jiménez on February 9, 2022.