A founder of the self-defense groups who have been battling organized crime in the western Mexican state of Michoacan was arraigned on charges of being an accessory to murder, his lawyer said.

Hipolito Mora was transferred from the state Attorney General's Office in Morelia to the medium-security prison in the municipality of Charo, Eduardo Quintero Madrigal told Efe.

The state AG's office accuses Mora of involvement in the murders of Rafael Sanchez Moreno and his driver, Jose Luis Torres Castañeda.

Sanchez Moreno, according to members of the Mora-led militia in the town of La Ruana, was an enforcer for the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) drug cartel, whose kidnapping and extortion rackets prompted the formation of the self-defense groups.

Mora's fellow vigilantes said Sanchez Moreno infiltrated the militia movement.

Mora entered a plea of not guilty and the judge will now decide whether to proceed to trial.

The burned bodies of Sanchez Moreno and Torres Castañeda were found last Saturday in Buenavista, a town near La Ruana in the Tierra Caliente region, which straddles Michoacan, Guerrero and Mexico states.

In a press conference hours after his client's arraignment, Quintero said the prosecution's case was "very weak" and based on claims by Sanchez Moreno's wife and children that Mora had threatened him.

The lawyer said the arraignment was a "Salomonic decision" by the Michoacan AG's office to avoid violence in the region.

Mora is "disappointed" that he was arrested after fighting for the state and pushing the state government to restore order, Quintero said, adding that he is confident the judge will quash the charges due to the lack of evidence.

Not doing so "would be an act of cowardice" on the judge's part, the attorney said.

Residents of La Ruana have expressed outrage over Mora's arrest, saying he is innocent and incorruptible.

The 58-year-old Mora, a lemon grower, formed the first community self-defense organization in the Tierra Caliente on Feb. 24, 2013.

The region was largely under the control of the Templarios until the federal government deployed the security forces in the area earlier this year to fight crime.

Vigilante groups have spread across Michoacan, which has been plagued by violence blamed on the Templarios.

About 50 of Mora's supporters surrendered their weapons to investigators, a community leader in La Ruana told Efe.

The group is now at the mercy of the leader of the vigilante organization in nearby Buenavista, Luis Antonio Torres, who allegedly has links to the Templarios, the community leader said.

Mora was arrested Tuesday, a day after meeting with Mexico's second-most-powerful national official, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, in the nation's capital.

The meeting was arranged to analyze the tense situation in La Ruana arising from the conflict between Mora's group and the self-defense organization headed by Torres. EFE