New law could lessen sentence in Mexico Twitter 'terrorism' case

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Story highlights

  • The new measure stems from accusations over false posts on Twitter that caused chaos
  • It includes a maximum sentence of four years in prison for disturbing the peace
  • Another state provision says those accused of terrorism face up to 30 years behind bars
  • Opponents of the new measure call on the state's governor to retract it
Nearly a month after false rumors on Twitter about school attacks caused car crashes when parents panicked on the streets of Veracruz, Mexico, state lawmakers there approved new regulations Tuesday making disturbing the peace a crime.
The new law could mean that imprisoned suspects previously accused of "terrorism" for their online posts could face significantly less time behind bars.
Now, those convicted of disturbing the peace could face up to four years in prison. State laws allow for a punishment of up to 30 years in prison for those convicted of terrorism.
Authorities say two suspects are behind false statements on Twitter and Facebook that fueled a chaotic scene in the Mexican port city of Veracruz last month.
One post claimed that five children were kidnapped. One mentioned bomb threats. Another described a helicopter was firing gunshots at an elementary school. "Remain calm. I think that the children should be in their homes. Go get them," another post warned.
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Gov. Javier Duarte initially accused those behind the messages of "terrorism." But he proposed the new regulations amid a firestorm of criticism from activists and human rights groups, who said the terrorism accusation -- and the possible punishment -- didn't fit the crime.
In a debate in the state's congress Tuesday, opposition lawmakers called on Duarte to retract the initiative, arguing that the document was designed to help two people but could have a much broader impact.
A lawyer representing suspects Maria de la Luz Bravo Pagola and Gilberto Martinez Vera said his clients would not use the new provision in Veracruz state's penal code to defend themselves.
Instead, attorney Fidel Ordonez Solana said he planned to make the case that they should be set free before a federal judge at a hearing Friday.