According to police records used in the indictment, the 21-year-old medical student was snatched April 18, 1975, from a street in Monterrey by seven state judicial police officers, who took away his .45-caliber pistol, beat him, forced him into a car and drove him to a ranch to be interrogated.
The records say he confessed to the murder of a police officer, 10 armed robberies and participation in the 1973 abduction of a Monterrey industrialist who was slain by his captors. Piedra was last reported seen in 1976 by fellow prisoners at Military Camp No. 1 in Mexico City, who were later freed and contacted his mother. She said the witnesses told her that he had been severely tortured.
Carrillo has set out to prove that Nazar and his immediate superior, Luis de la Barreda, were responsible for Piedra's arrest and disappearance.
Nazar was then deputy chief of the now-disbanded Federal Security Directorate - an intelligence-gathering force whose tactics included wiretapping, spying, jailing without trial, torture and killing. Nazar has acknowledged organizing the White Brigade, a feared paramilitary force drawn from several police and army units in the mid-1970s to eliminate armed leftist groups. They did so, he has said, "with the same fanaticism" displayed by the enemy.
But while admitting that his interrogations inflicted "mental torture," Nazar insists that the many former prisoners who accuse him of physical torture are mixing him up with another officer. As for the desaparecidos, he says, many died in combat with government forces or at the hands of fellow guerrillas who suspected they were spies.
That, at least, is what he told Ibarra might have happened to her son, when she confronted him years ago. Ibarra's teen-age daughter was also present, and the mother remembers vividly Nazar's capacity for "mental torture." He produced a stack of photos of bloody corpses, she recalls, and told the girl, "Here, look for your brother." Nazar, who now works with a private security firm owned by his children, declined to be interviewed, sending word through his attorney that he does not want the case tried in the news media.
But the attorney vouched for the accuracy of Nazar's lengthy remarks, quoted by two Mexican publications before his indictment, discussing his career and portraying himself as a "wounded tiger," the victim of a misguided probe. "I was an investigator, not a killer," he told the magazine Impacto.
Few believe him. A crowd of demonstrators outside Carrillo's office chanted "Nazar, murderer!" as the retired police officer, a slight man recovering from pneumonia, arrived in February for a closed hearing. He pleaded ill rather than answer questions. Two months later, after gathering more evidence, Carrillo indicted him and de la Barreda.
In a recent interview, the prosecutor said he chose the case as a starting point because "there was a critical mass of evidence" against both senior police officials.
But a Monterrey judge, ruling that the 22-year statute of limitations had run out, rejected his request in April to order the men arrested and tried for abduction.
Carrillo says he needs more support to pursue the cases and has begged Fox for it.
"The executive does not fulfill its mission just by creating the special prosecutor's office," he said in the interview. "Like any piece of machinery, it needs lubricants, fuel, replacement parts, maintenance and direction." If the investigation is allowed to fail, he said "you not only send a message tolerating impunity; you also cover up crimes."
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.