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Civilians who took up arms against criminals in southwestern Mexico formed a tribunal Thursday to try 55 people they detained for links to drug gangs and other charges.
Hundreds of indigenous farmers have policed several towns in the state of Guerrero since January 6, when they grabbed rifles, put on masks and began to round up suspects to stop a wave of violence, kidnappings and extorsion.
The suspects were hauled before their families, victims and villagers at the center of El Meson, as 60 local leaders decided to hold the first trials on February 14. The detainees include four women and two minors.
The accusations range from murder to kidnapping and extortion. Some are accused of dealing drugs and working as informants for gangs.
One of the accused, a 33-year-old man, was presented by one local leader as a farmer and driver "linked to organized crime" who is "accused of extortion."
The vigilante groups have said that they want to try the detainees according to local traditions, with those found guilty punished with forced labor in various towns for years depending on the gravity of the crime.
The state prosecutor, Martha Elba Garzon, told reporters that the families of the detainees filed a complaint and that the self-defense groups do not have the authority to judge and sentence people.
Vigilante groups have emerged in other states in recent years, as civilians accuse local police of failing to stop criminals or working with drug gangs.
More than 70,000 people have died in Mexico since 2006, when troops were deployed to crack down on the country's powerful drug cartels.