Photo: Hipolito Mora
The founder of the self-defense groups that were formed to battle the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel in the western Mexican state of Michoacan has been cleared of accessory to murder charges due to lack of evidence, judicial officials said.
Hipolito Mora, who walked out of the prison where he had been held for just over two months at around 8:30 p.m. Friday, read a message in which he said he was confident that judicial authorities and the Mexican government would solve the crimes for which he was arrested in March.
The vigilante leader also said he would join a newly formed rural defense unit in the town of Buenavista Tomatlan and register all of his weapons. He added that the time he spent behind bars surely “saved my life” consider all the threats he faced from drug-trafficking gangs.
A spokesman for the court in Michoacan that ordered Mora released told Efe that Judge Placido Torres Pineda upheld his defense team’s appeal against a March 19 decision ordering him to stand trial.
Judge Juan Salvador Alonso Mejia handed down that ruling eight days after Mora was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the murders of two suspected members of the Los Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) drug cartel: Rafael Sanchez Moreno and his driver, Jose Luis Torres Castañeda.
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.
Luis Antonio Torres, leader of one of the self-defense groups that operates in Michoacan and a friend of Sanchez Moreno, accused Mora of being an accessory to the double homicide.
Mora’s attorney, Eduardo Quintero, told Efe that his client has been cleared of the murder charges and that Michoacan state prosecutors now must relaunch their investigation to determine the real culprits in the killings of the two individuals who had infiltrated the self-defense groups.
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.