Following a perfunctory trial, Montiel was convicted and sentenced to six years and eight months in prison. Cabrera was convicted and received a similar sentence. While in prison, Montiel was forced to spend over a year confined to a small shower stall.

International Help Leads to Freedom

News of Montiel’s environmental activism, resulting torture, and status as a prisoner of conscience had spread throughout the international community. Montiel received several prestigious international environmental awards, including the Goldman Environmental Prize, considered to be the “Nobel Prize” for environmental activism, and the Sierra Club’s Chico Mendes Award.

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Mrs. Ethel Kennedy, widow of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, delivered the Goldman Prize to Montiel in his jail cell in Mexico. Then, on October 19, 2001, came the horrifying news that Digna Ochoa, a well-known Mexican human rights lawyer who had represented Montiel and Cabrera, had been murdered, apparently in reprisal for her defense of victims of human rights abuses. The Goldman Environmental Prize placed a full-page page ad in the New York Times calling for Montiel and Cabrera’s release.

One week later, Mexican President Vicente Fox issued an order freeing Montiel and Cabrera from prison. As a condition of President Fox’s order, Montiel was told that he and his family needed to permanently leave the State of Guerrero.

Seeking a New Life in Mexico

After his release, Rodolfo Montiel and his family relocated to another State in Mexico. But during the next few years, Montiel’s problems were far from over.

Montiel was followed each day by an individual in an unmarked car. The local police began to stalk Montiel and his family, routinely trespassing on their property. On one occasion when he traveled for work to a neighboring town, eight military vehicles appeared and parked right beside his truck for the entire time he remained in the town. Montiel began to truly fear for his safety, and decided that he needed to leave Mexico before things got worse.

Dear friends, we must not exchange the future of our children for a few coins. Let’s be united, hand in hand with this new world that is for all of us. With courage, good luck, and faith, anything can be achieved.

- Rodolfo Montiel, in a letter from the Iguala prison

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