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Authorities arrest 10 police officers for jail cell murder of trans woman

argentina flag handcuffs family member holding photo of Sofia Ines Fernandez transgender woman found dead police station cell
Shutterstock; Tomás Ramírez Labrousse for Amnesty International Argentina

Sofia Fernández was beaten, tortured, and asphyxiated, but police claimed she died by suicide.

Authorities in Argentina have arrested 10 police officers in connection with the murder of a transgender woman in a police holding cell last year.

Sofia Fernández, 39, a former linguistics professor studying to be a nurse, was arrested after she was accused of robbery and assault by a neighbor. Following days of detention, her lifeless body was found in a cell on April 11, 2023.

The cause of death was originally listed only as a sudden death and then death by suicide, but a later autopsy determined Fernández died by asphyxiation.

Guard logs and other documentation were seized by investigators, but the video surveillance system monitoring the area was unaccountably not in operation at the time of Fernández’s murder.

The case languished for several months without arrests or further developments until September when prosecutor Gonzalo Agüero was challenged and removed from the case for the slow pace of the investigation and lack of cooperation with Fernández’s family, Agencia Presentes reported.

“Sofía had a thong and a piece of mattress in her throat, which obstructed the airways,” the prosecutor’s office investigating the case told TN.

The autopsy also revealed her body was bruised and showed signs of torture, although it is unclear when the injuries were suffered.

The new prosecutors on the case, Manuel Cayuela and Esteban Álvarez and assistant prosecutor Victoria Santamaria this week charged five officers with murder based upon a person’s gender identity, Kaosenlared reported. These include Assistant Police Officer Carlos Rodríguez, Sergeant Yésica Núñez, Second Lieutenant Viviana Ruiz, Sergeant Gonzalo Germán Robles, and Assistant Police Officer Ezequiel Francisco Ávalos Ibáñez.

Five other police officers and officials were charged with helping to cover up the murder: police station chief Daniel Salerni, Deputy Commissioner Mirian Valor; Sergeant Gabriela Miño, Officer Camila Pitular, and Assistant Police Officer Gustavo Gabriel Camacho.

Prosecutors allege the five officers tortured and murdered Fernández because of her gender identity and were then assisted by the five others in concealing her murder.

The investigation is expected to continue for several months, with a trial most likely not starting until next year.

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