Mexico Drops Charges Against “Twitter Terrorists”

Two Mexican citizens arrested for terrorism in early September have been freed. The charges were laid based on tweets they sent mistakenly warning of an elementary school under attack by gunman.

Gilberto Martinez, a math teacher, and Maria de Jesus Bravo, a local radio host, were behind bars for over three weeks.

The pair had tweeted that gunmen from drug gangs had taken over a local school in the city of Veracruz. One tweet from Martinez is said to have read:

“I can confirm this, at the Jorge Arroyo school in the Carranza district, five children have been taken away by an armed group. Total psychosis in the area.”

The tweets from the pair caused mass panic in the streets of Veracruz, according to the authorities, with more than 20 car accidents occurring amid the frenzy.

After three weeks in jail pending a trial for terrorism, Reuters is reporting that both tweeters have been freed. Their attorney claimed that they were tweeting under the presumption that the attacks were real.

In response to the international attention this case garnered throughout September, Veracruz lawmakers have changed the original terrorism law that put the pair in jail, and decreased the potential sentences for similar charges in the future.

Arrests for tweets have been on the increase lately. They’ve brought international scrutiny to Twitter as a public platform, and have thrown open the doors on a debate over freedom of speech.

Publish date: September 23, 2011 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT