Mexico's chief investigator probed over missing students case

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – Mexico's head of criminal investigations faced calls to be fired on Thursday, April 28 as the attorney general's office launched a probe into his handling of a crime scene in the disappearance of 43 students.

The inspector general opened an investigation on Wednesday, April 27 into officials present at a river in southern Guerrero state on October 28, 2014, the attorney general's office said in a statement on Thursday.

Tomas Zeron, the head of the criminal investigations agency, was led that day by a suspect to the San Juan river, in which the burnt remains of students were allegedly tossed by a drug gang.

Foreign experts who aided the investigation slammed Zeron's conduct, saying his failure to make a written report about the visit, including the discovery of a bone, went against the "minimum international standards of investigation."

The experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also said medical reports show that the suspect had injuries that strongly indicate he was tortured. (READ: Experts say Mexico damaging probe of 43 missing students)

The lawyers from Colombia and Chile, along with a Spanish psychologist, called for Zeron's actions to be investigated prior to the official announcement.

Parents of the students and opposition lawmakers demanded that Zeron be fired.

"It was Tomas Zeron who obstructed the process, who falsified all the evidence, who made people testify without they lawyer, which violates human rights," said Marko Cortes, who leads the conservative National Action Party in the lower house of Congress.

Local human rights organizations issued a statement on behalf of the parents, saying that Zeron should be sacked "to allow an investigation into obstruction of justice."

It was the latest condemnation of the government's handling of the case, which has caused outrage in Mexico and abroad, while President Enrique Peña Nieto's approval rating has dropped.

Investigator defends himself

Zeron vehemently denied any misconduct late Wednesday, saying his visit to the river site was legally sound.

He released a video showing that he was indeed at the location with a suspect on October 28 but he said no crucial evidence was found that day.

He said the bone that was discovered turned out to be that of a bird, and that a human bone was only found on October 29.

Prosecutors say Iguala city police abducted the students and delivered them to a drug gang, which killed them, incinerated their bodies at a garbage dump in the nearby town of Cocula, and tossed the remains in the river.

While the experts say an official picture shows that a bag containing a bone belonging to one student was marked "October 28," Zeron said it was a mistake by a forensic investigator and that the picture's metadata, which cannot be altered, is dated October 29.

Zeron said the presence of two officials from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights seen near the site in his agency's video showed that he was not hiding anything.

But the UN office issued a statement saying that the two officials were never taken to the river and were never aware that a suspect was there. – Leticia Pineda, AFP/Rappler.com