Friday, June 3, 2011

Follow-up: Chile court rejects retrial for Mapuche strikers

Yesterday we examined the case of four imprisoned indigenous Mapuche activists who have been on a hunger strike since the middle of March. The protesters, who were hospitalized this week due to their fragile health, sought a retrial after they were convicted under a controversial dictatorship-era law. (That law severely limits the legal rights of the accused including permitting the state to hold people for up to two years without charges and the use of anonymous witnesses during trials).

Earlier today the Chilean Supreme Court refused to grant the strikers a retrial. The tribunal ruled to annul one of the convictions against the four men and, thus, reduces their prison sentences. Nonetheless, the court upheld another conviction for assault, which means that three of the protesters would have to serve prison sentences of 8 years while the group’s “leader” faces 14 years behind bars.

Mapuche spokeswoman Natividad Llanquileo deemed the decision as “unacceptable” and added that she would take the four men’s cases to the international courts. Meanwhile, the prisoners vowed to continue their hunger strike, which reached its 81st day on Friday.

According to local reports, police arrested twelve Mapuche demonstrators who gathered outside of the La Moneda presidential palace.

The Chilean government has yet to make a public declaration regarding today’s verdict. Both current President Sebastián Piñera and his predecessor, Michelle Bachelet, have strongly defended the controversial anti-terrorism law that opponents view as unjust and draconian:
It is necessary "to bring our ant-terrorism legislation into line with the standards of democracies in the developed world, but that must not mean that we let our guard down against this cruel, merciless scourge, which is itself a grave violation of basic rights," Piñera said in his annual state of the nation address on Saturday May 21.

"It's true that after 2001 (the 9/11 attacks in Washington and New York), powers to combat terrorism at a global level increased…but in the case of this Chilean law, it allows crimes against property to be treated as terrorist crimes, which is disproportionate," (attorney Julio) Cortés said.
Online Sources- UNPO, La Nacion, La Tercera,, The Latin Americanist,, teleSUR, Houston Chronicle

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