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Mexican Supreme Court rules drug lord's release was wrong

| Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 9:24 p.m.

MEXICO CITY — Mexico's Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned an appeals court ruling that freed drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero from prison, a decision that had enraged American officials who placed a bounty for his recapture.

Caro Quintero left a maximum-security prison in August because the appeals court overturned his 40-year sentence for the 1985 torture killing of Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena and a Mexican government pilot.

The appeals court annulled Caro Quintero's sentence on procedural grounds, saying he should have been tried in a state court instead of federal court because Camarena was not registered as a diplomat, which would have made it a federal crime. Simple homicides are state crimes.

Prosecutors appealed that ruling, and a panel of five Supreme Court justices voted 4-1 to overturn the release, ruling that Camarena was a registered U.S. government agent and thus covered by the federal law.

“In his character as a DEA agent, he was an internationally protected person, given that he had been officially recognized by Mexico and the United States as an intergovernmental agent,” the court said in a statement.

A U.S. official who attended the court session but who was not authorized to be quoted by name said his government was “satisfied” by the Supreme Court ruling, calling it “the correct decision.”

Caro Quintero, 61, would be returned to prison to serve out his sentence under the ruling, but the two governments have not been able to find him since he walked free.

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