Veracruz – Two people who posted what turned out to be false reports about attacks on schools in the Mexican Gulf coast state of Veracruz were charged Wednesday with terrorism and sabotage, crimes punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Judge Beatriz Hernandez allowed prosecutors to move forward with the case against math teacher Gilberto Martinez Vera and a former official of the state education department, Maria de Jesus Bravo Pagola.
Both defendants are being held without bail.
The stories sent hundreds of panicked parents rushing to the schools mentioned to rescue their children, even as the students inside cowered in expectation of violence that never came.
Martinez, according to the indictment, said on Twitter that a drug gang had abducted five children from one school, while De Jesus Bravo posted an item on her Facebook page about a non-existent battle between gunmen and marines at another school.
The state's top official for law and order, Gerardo Buganza, denied that the prosecution is an attack on freedom of expression.
Authorities are not censoring the Internet, but will act against those who offend "against the social order," he told reporters Wednesday.
Article 19, a London-based group for defense of freedom of expression, noted Wednesday that both defendants proclaim their innocence.
"The arrest of Twitter users for terrorism is the latest attempt to restrict freedom of expression in Veracruz," Article 19's director for Mexico and Central America, Dario Ramirez, said in a statement.
Given that four journalists have been slain this year in Veracruz, pursuing users of Internet social networks represents an "excess" on the part of authorities, Ramirez said.