Monday, January 8, 2007

November 16, 2006: New evidence casts doubt over who killed U.S. journalist, Oaxaca Attorney General says

State investigators have found that a U.S. activist and journalist who was killed while filming a Oaxaca gun battle last month was shot at point blank range, indicating that the two suspects currently in prison may not be behind his death, Oaxaca Attorney General Lizbeth Cana said.

Two officials from the town of Santa Lucia were arrested for the killing of Roland Will, 36, who was shot Oct. 27 in the town near Oaxaca while filming a group of leftist protesters during a clash with authorities.

Cana said Tuesday that the investigation shows that both bullets that killed Will were fired from the same gun, and one of them was fired at point-blank range. The evidence suggest that the protesters being filmed by Will may have shot him, Cana said.

The leftist protesters are calling for the resignation of Oaxaca Gov. Ulises Ruiz, an Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, member, who is Cana's boss. They have accused Cana of using her office to support a corrupt governor and she has called them "urban guerrillas."

Protest spokesman Florentino Lopez said Cana was fabricating evidence to try and blame the leftists for the killing.

"It seems a very clear fabrication and a stupid way of trying to blame the protesters," Lopez said.

Will wrote dispatches on independent website showing he had strong sympathies with the leftist protest movement. He was shot twice in the abdomen in the incident and died on the way to hospital.

Also Tuesday, gunmen killed two members of the PRI in the Oaxacan mountains but it was not clear if their deaths were linked to the political unrest that has swept the state since May.

The shooting took place near the village of San Agustin Loxicha, 120 miles (200 kilometers) south of Oaxaca's state capital.

The two PRI members, identified as Faustino Sebastian Valencia and Jesus Valencia, were ambushed and shot dead as they walked in the mountains, said Lieutenant Manuel Moreno Rivas of Oaxaca state police. Moreno said he did not know the motive for the killing.

Oaxaca PRI president Hector Pablo Ramirez said the killings may been linked to the political conflict in the state or they may have been to do with a personal grudge.

The protests to oust Ruiz have led to at least nine deaths, mostly of leftist protesters who have been shot by gangs of gunmen.

Protesters accuse Ruiz of rigging the 2004 election to win office and of using violence against his opponents.

Last month, President Vicente Fox sent more than 4,000 federal police to quell the unrest.

Associated Press Writer Ioan Grillo contributed to this report from Mexico City.

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