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Judge frees Mexican labor leader Elba Gordillo, held for 5 years without trial

Aug. 9 (UPI) — A Mexican federal court has freed former teachers union leader Elba Esther Gordillo of embezzlement charges that put her in prison for five years without a trial.

Gordillo was arrested the day after an anti-union education reform law was signed in 2013, accused of organized crime and embezzling millions in union funds to pay for personal expenses.

She denied the charges and said her arrest was politically motivated because of her opposition to the education reform, which she said was designed to disrupt the union’s control of hiring and school administration.

Gordillo, then the leader of the Mexican National Educational Workers Union, remained in prison for five years awaiting trial — until the federal court ruled this week there are insufficient grounds to proceed in her prosecution.

Her release comes months after her attorney, Marco Antonio del Toro, presented evidence to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, D.C., that she was a political prisoner and victim of human rights violations.

Gordillo learned of her “absolute and immediate freedom” late Tuesday, del Toro said, and will speak to reporters about the experience Aug. 20, after first taking time to readjust to life outside prison.

“Due to the very long situation of isolation to which I have been subjected, I need a period to privately assimilate the obvious emotions that are derived from such an important personal occurrence,” she said. “I have decided to have no contact with any national or foreign media because I consider that this stage, which places me in a new circumstance, should be . . . accepted and lived with family.”

Prosecutors can appeal her release, but it wasn’t immediately clear if they plan to do so. The attorney general’s office (PGR) tweeted Wednesday that while it “respects the decision,” it does not agree with it.

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