updated 12/2/2006 12:55:43 AM ET 2006-12-02T05:55:43

Authorities have released two policemen arrested in the shooting death of American journalist Bradley Roland Will in southern Oaxaca state, citing a lack of evidence.

Abel Zarate and Orlando Aguilar, police officers in the working-class town of San Lucia on the outskirts of Oaxaca City, were freed Tuesday, a month after they were arrested, judge Victoriano Barroso said Friday.

“Releasing them doesn’t mean that the case is closed, because the investigation continues to find the culprits,” Barroso said.

Oaxaca has been beset since late May by demonstrations by leftist protesters calling for the resignation of Gov. Ulises Ruiz. At least nine people have died in the violence, mostly protesters shot dead by gangs of gunmen.

Will, 36, a freelance video journalist who wrote dispatches for the Web site Indymedia.com, was killed Oct. 27 while filming a gunbattle between protesters and a group of armed men in Santa Lucia.

“The evidence showed the shots were fired from a distance of about a meter,” Barroso said, adding that witnesses said Zarate and Aguilar, who were arrested after news footage showed them firing their weapons during the clash, were about 115 feet away when Will was killed.

Barroso also said the bullets that killed Will came from a 9 mm pistol, while the officers were carrying .38-caliber revolvers.

Protesters have accused Oaxacan state officials of fabricating evidence to blame Will’s death on their movement.

The demonstrations began in late May as a strike by teachers seeking higher pay, and quickly developed into a broad movement accusing Ruiz of rigging the 2004 election and sending thugs to kill and intimidate his opponents. The teachers later accepted pay raises and returned to work, but their leftist allies continued to demand the governor’s resignation.

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