- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Several people who were wrongly detained and allegedly tortured by Mexican police have been released after spending years in custody, human rights groups said Thursday.

The releases involved four people who were arrested in 2012 and 2013 in cities along the border with the United States and accused of crimes of which they were ultimately absolved. They all walked free Wednesday.

Amnesty International said in a statement that the cases offer “hope for justice in countless similar cases of people tortured and detained unfairly.”

Three of those freed were Cristel Pina, Eduardo Estrada and Leonardo de la O, who were detained in August 2013 in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, and accused of belonging to an extortion ring, according to two Mexican advocacy groups, the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez and the Paso del Norte human rights centers.

While in custody they were allegedly tortured physically and psychologically by police, and Pina in particular was subjected to sexual abuse, the groups said.

“Cristel’s case reflects the systematic pattern of sexual torture faced by Mexican women who are detained by security forces. … We consider it of utmost importance that the use of torture as a method of investigation is condemned,” the centers said.

Pina, Estrada and de la O were absolved by a judge Nov. 9 and are now seeking punishment for those who tortured them.

Amnesty International’s statement said Pina was beaten and tortured into giving a videotaped confession.

It also cited the case of Adrian Vasquez, a bus driver who was arrested over three years ago and accused of being a drug trafficker. He, too, was allegedly tortured by police, and was freed from a prison near Tijuana, across the border from San Diego.

“The fact that judges in different states of the country can strike down shaky accusations based on torture shows us that there is some hope for justice in other cases,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Amnesty’s Americas director.

Phone calls seeking comment from the Public Safety Department in Baja California state, which is home to Tijuana, and the State Prosecutor’s Office in Chihuahua, which is home to Ciudad Juarez, went unanswered Thursday night.

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