Superior Court judge dismisses charges against UPR students

By The Star Staff

San Juan Superior Court Judge Eloina Torres Cancel on Monday dismissed charges against several University of Puerto Rico (UPR) students accused of restriction of freedom, violating a peaceful meeting and intimidation after they interrupted a UPR board meeting in 2017.

The judge dismissed the charges on the grounds that the Justice Department violated the due process rights of the students because a witness had informed the agency and the defense that another witness was not going to be able to testify.

“This decision arises from the 365-day extension of the terms, and after being analyzed by the magistrate after the defense and the public prosecutor had been notified that a witness would not be available to attend,” the decision reads.

“Contempt is a less serious crime and the witness resides outside of Puerto Rico, so the service of the order, as well as its transfer to this jurisdiction are unlikely,” the ruling said, adding that “the Court does not have a real and effective mechanism to compel the witness to appear in this or in any other stage of the procedure.”

The case gained notoriety amid claims that the island Justice Department went on a fishing expedition by accessing the social media pages of thousands of students in order to file charges.

The Justice Department in a statement said it followed due process.

It also denied that it had created dossiers of students using their social media pages and based on their political ideology.

“The judge did not think the arguments brought by the defense had merit,” the agency said. “Therefore, the investigative actions, made pursuant to a subpoena, continue to be the legal state.”

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