8 convicted in '94 killing of Mexican leader


MEXICO CITY -- The man who fired the shot that assassinated the No. 2 official in Mexico's ruling party has been found guilty of murder, along with seven co-conspirators, and sentenced to 50 years in prison, officials confirmed yesterday.

The eight convictions in the killing of Francisco Ruiz Massieu support the existence of a plot that prosecutors say stretches all the way to the elder brother of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

Coming less than six months after Mr. Ruiz Massieu was gunned down outside a downtown hotel, the convictions raise serious questions about the lack of progress in two earlier high-profile murders, those of ruling party presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio and Cardinal Juan Jesus Posados Ocampo.

They also serve as an ironic tribute to the man who conducted the investigation that led to these arrests: Mario Ruiz Massieu, the victim's brother.

The former prosecutor is in jail in the United States on currency violation charges, while in Mexico he is accused of covering up Raul Salinas de Gortari's alleged role in helping to mastermind his brother's killing.

Investigators also have found millions of dollars in American and Mexican bank accounts under Mario Ruiz Massieu's name, raising suspicions about his role as special prosecutor in the assassination case and, earlier, as Mexico's top anti-drug official.

Despite such questions about Mario Ruiz Massieu's conduct, Judge Emma Meza found the evidence uncovered in the early part of his investigation compelling enough to convict the gunman and seven co-conspirators and to sentence half of them to 50 years in prison, the maximum under Mexican law.

The eight were convicted, even though no clear motive has been established in the murder. Investigators say they suspect a falling-out over business and family matters between Raul Salinas and the victim, who is divorced from Mr. Salinas' sister.

Six other suspects, including Raul Salinas, are in jail awaiting trial.

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