Human rights activists and politicians are lobbying for the release of two environmentalists jailed last year in Mexico on charges of illegal weapons possession and growing marijuana.

Rodolfo Montiel -- who lead a peasant-based anti-logging campaign in the mountains of southern Mexico -- and Teodoro Cabrera are the focus of a national campaign coordinated by the Sierra Club and Amnesty International.

The two have received support and awards from environmental and human rights groups, who claim he was framed because of his activities.

The groups claim that Montiel and Cabrera were arrested as punishment for their complaints about excessive logging in the Mexican state of Guerrero.

Attorneys seeking to appeal their convictions allege that the men were illegally detained and tortured into signing confessions.

In a news conference last week at the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles, mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa joined the plea for Mexican President Vicente Fox to intervene in the case.

"We know this fight is an important symbol in determining whether or not Mexico is now going to be true to its word," Villaraigosa said, referring to pledges made by Fox to uphold human rights.

Despite findings by a government human rights commission that Montiel and Cabrera were tortured, the Fox administration maintained that the men appeared to have been tried fairly.

However, Los Angeles Consul General Jose Luis Bernal said he is willing to meet with local groups that disagree.

A Circuit Court judge in October upheld the 6-year, 4-month sentence handed down against Montiel and also upheld a 10-year, 4-month sentence against Cabrera, a fellow member of Montiel's Ecologist Peasants group.

The Mexican human rights group which oversees the their defense said it would continue appeals to higher courts.


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