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Thursday, 31 January, 2002, 18:27 GMT
Mexican massacre inquiry ordered
'Tlatelolco massacre'
Some 300 are thought to have died in the massacre
The Supreme Court in Mexico has ordered a federal investigation into the 1968 massacre of hundreds of students by the army.

In a unanimous ruling, the five judges rejected arguments by the government, which had said that even if any crimes had been committed, no prosecutions would be possible because they had taken place too long ago.

Mexico City Tlatelolco rally
There are regular marches to commemorate the event
The Mexican Government has always maintained about 30 people were killed when soldiers opened fire on a demonstration by university students in Tlatelolco Plaza in Mexico City. Witnesses say the number is closer to 300.

What has become known as the Tlatelolco massacre on 2 October 1968 has recently returned to the spotlight as President Vicente Fox's administration moves to punish past state crimes.

The investigation would be aimed at determining what crimes were committed and how to proceed.

Investigations have previously been hampered because the Institutional Revolutionary Party that ruled Mexico for 71 years until Mr Fox took office in 2000 refused to open archives on the massacre.

Unclear sequence of events

After a season of growing unrest ahead of the Olympic Games that year, a group of protesters marched on the Plaza of Three Cultures in the Tlatelolco district in the north of Mexico City.

The marchers that day were demonstrating against police brutality at earlier student actions in Mexico City.

One of those arrested in 1968

What happened next remains a mystery. Troops and police began firing and the crowd fled in panic.

The government of the day accused young communist idealists of opening fire to provoke a popular uprising. The official account said troops only shot back in self-defence.

Many of the protest organisers were imprisoned for years afterwards. But witnesses have argued that government snipers fired on the crowd from apartment towers surrounding the plaza.

See also:

29 Jun 99 | Americas
Mexico massacre account challenged
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