Forty-five of the world’s most prominent environmentalists have called for the immediate release of Mexican colleagues Rodolfo Montiel Flores and Teodoro Cabrera Garcia, who have been jailed and tortured after blocking logging operations by the multinational Boise Cascade in the southern state of Guerrero.

Rodolfo Montiel Flores.

Urging that the “tragic stories” of murdered environmental activists Chico Mendes and Ken Saro-Wiwa never be repeated, the activists — all previous winners of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize — wrote to Mexico’s President-elect Vicente Fox on July 14 to request his intervention in the case. Fox is scheduled to visit Washington, D.C., in August; the activists hope international pressure will lead Fox “to request the dismissal of [the] false charges” against the Mexican environmentalists.

Montiel and Cabrera were arrested by the Mexican Army on May 2, 1999, after they rallied neighbors to turn back logging trucks from their community in the Sierra Madre mountains. The men say they were tortured into signing a blank piece of paper that later became a “confession” to having grown marijuana and trafficked weapons. The Mexican attorney general has denied any irregularities in the case.

Montiel was awarded the Goldman Prize in April but had to accept it in prison. Amnesty International has declared both Montiel and Cabrera “prisoners of conscience” and, with the Sierra Club, has demanded their immediate, unconditional release.