Free! Kristie Mayhugh, Cassandra Rivera, Elizabeth Ramirez & Anna vasquez (Pic:  Debbie Nathan)

Free! Kristie Mayhugh, Cassandra Rivera, Elizabeth Ramirez & Anna vasquez (Pic: Debbie Nathan)

Three lesbian women wrongfully convicted on child abuse charges have been released after spending 14 years in a Texas jail.

In 1994, Elizabeth Ramirez was accused of sexually abusing her two young nieces (aged seven and nine at the time).

Three other women, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh and Anna Vasquez, were also charged with allegedly participating in the molestations over a week long period.

During the trial, the women – known as The San Antonio Four – were accused of conducing satanic rituals on the girls.

The prosecution suggested that because they were lesbian they were inclined to be child abusers.

Despite their pleas of innocence Ramirez was sentenced to 37 years in prison and the other women were sentenced to 15 years.

In subsequent years, the case against the women has unravelled and the medical evidence against them has been rejected as faulty.

The two nieces have also recently recanted or retracted their testimony of abuse, on which much of the case was based.

On Monday, a judge released Ramirez, Rivera,and Mayhugh. The fourth woman, Vasquez, was already out on parole.

Vasquez said the news of the other women’s release was “exciting and overwhelming”.

She told the Huffington Post: “Homosexuality back then was viewed as perverted, a sickness, and one where they associated lesbians with having been child molesters.”

While she was released over a year ago, Vasquez has been barred from going within 150 metres of a school or any other place where groups of children might be located.

The women are now planning to embark on a legal process to have themselves formally declared innocent and could then sue the state of Texas for wrongful imprisonment.

“It’s a huge injustice to us we had many years taken away from us,” Vasquez told KENS5.

The National Center for Reason and Justice, which has backed the women’s legal challenge to be freed, said that it was “overjoyed” at their release.

“As their case shows, gay people are not always protected by the criminal justice system. On the contrary, they can be targeted. The San Antonio 4 are low-income people of colour—also easy targets for our culture’s growing anxieties and tendency to maintain order by accusing, punishing, and ostracising,” said the organisation.

Watch the emotional release of the three women below.

free! from blue cabin studios | austin, tex on Vimeo.

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