FBI silent on seizing 'wrong man' in Mexico

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The Independent Online
CONTROVERSY surrounding the case of Humberto Alvarez Machain, the Mexican gynaecologist abducted by the United States, has deepened with the relevation that the FBI were told two months ago that they may have seized the wrong man.

Dr Alvarez Machain returned to Mexico this week, more than two and a half years after he was kidnapped by US-paid bounty hunters to face charges over the murder of Enrique Camarena, a US narcotics agent killed by Mexican drugs traffickers in 1985. The US authorities maintain that the doctor gave the agent injections to revive him during torture. But a US District Judge, Edward Rafeedie, threw out the case for lack of evidence.

Now the same judge has dealt a further blow to the US authorities. He has disclosed that the FBI were told by a Mexican informant in September that another doctor might have administered drugs to Mr Camarena. Though there are serious doubts about the informant's reliability, the judge was clearly angered; he was told of the allegations, which he described as 'very disturbing', only a few hours before acquitting Dr Alvarez Machain.

The American Civil Liberties Union issued a furious statement, accusing the US department of justice of 'scandalous misconduct', and attempting to 'railroad an innocent man to a life prison term'. US prosecutors say they found out about the FBI informant only last week.

It is another episode in an affair that is proving hugely embarrassing to the US, which has paid millions of dollars to witnesses in the Camarena case. Yet it does not appear to be accepting defeat graciously. The US immigration authorities tried to detain Dr Alvarez Machain after he was acquitted, on the grounds that he was in the United States illegally.

In further evidence that the US was not prepared to consider the case closed despite the judge's ruling, Washington yesterday formally asked Mexico to investigate and prosecute Dr Alvarez Machain. The State Department said the Mexican government 'should investigate and prosecute Alvarez Machain to the fullest extent of Mexican law as it has stated it would'.