The Associated Press

October 21, 2008

Mexico City


Mexican human rights officials on Monday urged prosecutors to re-examine the 2006 killing of a U.S. journalist-activist and questioned findings blaming his shooting death on members of the protest movement he had been filming.

Bradley Roland Will, of New York, a 36-year-old reporter for Indymedia.org, was shot while filming a clash between protesters and pro-state government forces in southern Oaxaca state.

On Friday, federal prosecutors announced that two supporters of the radical movement known as the People's Assembly of Oaxaca, or APPO, had been arrested in connection with Will's killing. APPO seized control of Oaxaca city for almost five months in 2006 to push for the ouster of Gov. Ulises Ruiz.

The arrests were criticized both by APPO — which contends the men are innocent — and Will's family, who blame pro-government gunmen who were almost a block away.

Mexico's governmental National Human Rights Commission on Monday contended that the federal probe's findings were unsubstantiated.

"These shortcomings made it impossible to develop a proper hypothesis and find out what really happened," commission investigator Mauricio Farah said at a news conference.

Federal prosecutors allege that APPO member Juan Manuel Martinez was the gunman, and that fellow protester Octavio Perez helped cover up the crime. Officials are looking for eight other alleged accomplices.

In response to the commission's announcement, Assistant Prosecutor Juan de Dios Castro defended his office's investigation at a news conference Monday. But he failed to give specifics about the ballistics evidence or explain why Martinez would have fired at journalist Will, who supported the protest movement and was documenting the conflict.

Castro said simply it was up to a judge to decide whether to bring charges against Martinez.

Prosecutors also reaffirmed that the shots that killed Will came from close range, suggesting the gunman was a protester.

But Farah said the human rights commission's investigation found that the gunman was 40 to 55 yards (35 to 50 meters) away when the fatal shots were fired.

Epifanio Salazar, a forensic specialist who conducted the commission's inquiry, played an audio recording of the protest at the news conference, in which the sound of a gunshot is followed by Will's crying out as he is hit.

Salazar said the time between the shot and Will's cry proves the gunman was not at close range.

Human rights group Amnesty International also expressed concern, saying in statements that the suspects have not had access to lawyers since their arrest and that the government appears "not to be properly evaluating the forensic evidence, nor adequately investigating other leads."

State investigators previously arrested two town officials in Will's death but later released them after then-state Attorney General Lizbeth Cana, a political ally of Gov. Ruiz, suggested that the journalist may have been shot by protesters.

The human rights commission says Will was among at least a dozen people killed in a monthslong conflict during which protesters accused Ruiz of rigging his electoral victory and repressing opponents.

Farah declined to name who might have been involved.

"We can't say who it was who shot Bradley," he said. "What we can say scientifically is where that person was standing."

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