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  HOME | Mexico

Mexican Vigilante Leader Facing Murder Trial

MEXICO CITY – A leader of self-defense groups who have been battling the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel in the western Mexican state of Michoacan was ordered bound over for trial on charges of accessory to murder.

State magistrate Juan Salvador Alonso Mejia also instructed police to transfer Hipolito Mora to the prison in Apatzingan, where several Templarios are being held.

Mora is accused of involvement in the murders of Rafael Sanchez Moreno and his driver, Jose Luis Torres Castañeda.

Sanchez Moreno, according to members of the Mora-led militia in the town of La Ruana, was an enforcer for the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar), whose kidnapping and extortion rackets prompted the formation of the self-defense groups in February 2013.

The burned bodies of Sanchez Moreno and Torres Castañeda were found March 8 in Buenavista, a town near La Ruana in the Tierra Caliente region, which straddles Michoacan, Guerrero and Mexico states.

Mora’s attorney, Eduardo Quintero Madrigal, blasted Judge Alonso as cowardly and “vile.”

When the defense lawyer asked Alonso to detail the evidence against Mora, the judge’s “reaction was to go hide in his private office like a poor excuse for a man and to call for help from security,” Quintero told Efe.

Alonso put Mora’s life in danger by sending him to the Apatzingan prison, the attorney said.

He also suggested the judge is corrupt, insisting that Alonso owns a home in Spain.

“His salary is not high enough for that,” Quintero said of the magistrate. “I can assure you, he is not a man of integrity.”

The 58-year-old Mora, a lemon grower, formed the first community self-defense organization in the Tierra Caliente on Feb. 24, 2013.

The region was largely under the control of the Templarios until the federal government deployed security forces in the area earlier this year to fight crime.

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