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Israel exploits case of Mexico official wanted for torture, murder for diplomatic gain

July 15, 2021 at 1:12 pm

Tomás Zerón de Lucio, the former director of Mexico’s equivalent of the FBI [Wikipedia]

The notorious case of former top Mexican official wanted in connection with the torture, abduction and murder of 43 students, and for embezzling $50 million of state funds, has become mired in a diplomatic tussle between Israel and Mexico over the occupation state’s treatment of Palestinians.

Tomás Zerón de Lucio, the former director of Mexico’s equivalent of the FBI, fled to Israel following the opening of an investigation into his role in the 2014 Iguala mass kidnapping, which continues to cause a storm in Mexico to this day. Zeron headed the criminal investigation, but his report was discredited after it was discovered that crucial testimony was obtained under torture, evidence was mishandled and promising leads ignored.

Zeron has dismissed the charges and has been seeking political asylum in Israel, where he has lived for nearly two years. Mexican officials say that Zeron has connections to powerful Israeli companies that helped him flee Mexico.

Read: Israel agrees to extradite sex abuse suspect to Australia

Allegations against the former official also include the embezzlement of $50 million worth of state funds. While in office, Zeron is said to have authorised the purchase of tens of millions of dollars in surveillance systems from private Israeli intelligence firms including the notorious Pegasus software developed by Israel’s NSO Group. The software has been used to target journalists, lawyers and activists in several countries around the globe. It’s claimed that in some cases the intelligence gear purchased by Zeron were never delivered.

Mexico has demanded the extradition of Zeron. Israel however has not acted on either the extradition request or the asylum claims and is said to be looking for ways to squeeze diplomatic concessions out of the highly sensitive case.

Senior Israeli officials were cited in the New York Times saying that Zeron’s extradition case was being slow-walked as “tit-for-tat diplomacy” against Mexico, which has supported United Nations inquiries into allegations of Israeli war crimes against Palestinians. “Why would we help Mexico?” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to offer a candid view of a diplomatic dispute.

The senior Israeli official said that the current Mexican government has repeatedly supported resolutions criticising Israel at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, including decisions to investigate Israel’s killing of Palestinian protesters in Gaza in 2018 and the killing of civilians in the besieged enclave during the occupation state’s latest onslaught.