SANTIAGO – A Chilean military tribunal has acquitted five Mapuche Indians of several charges including attacking a prosecutor from the southern region of Araucania.
According to Bio Bio Radio, the defendants exonerated of the charges include Hector Llaitul Carrillanca, ex-leader of a radical Mapuche organization who was accused of masterminding the October 2008 attack on prosecutor Mario Elgueta and his retinue of Carabineros militarized police.
That information was confirmed by the Military Tribunal of Valdivia, which notified the defendants and their attorneys of the verdict. The decision will be reviewed by a military appeals court.
According to the family members of the acquitted Indians, the military court’s ruling could set a precedent for a separate case being heard in a civilian court in Arauco province, Bio Bio region.
Llaitul Carrillanca, erstwhile head of the Arauco Malleco Coordinator, will remain jailed pending the result of that other trial, in which he and 16 other Mapuche Indians have been accused in connection with the same attack.
The Indians are accused of robbery and intimidation, attempted murder, illegal possession of firearms and terrorist conspiracy for allegedly participating in an Oct. 15, 2008, ambush of Elgueta and several police officers accompanying him.
Those 17 Mapuches, along with 21 other indigenous comrades, staged a more than 70-day hunger strike earlier this year in several prisons of southern Chile to demand they not be tried under a draconian anti-terrorism law imposed during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
That legislation allows the state to hold people for up to two years without charges, to restrict defense attorneys’ access to evidence and to use testimony from anonymous witnesses.
The hunger strikers also demanded that they not be tried for the same charges in both civilian and military courts.
To bring an end to the protest, the government eventually agreed not to invoke the anti-terror law in some trials.
Mapuche militants have torched vehicles, highway toll booths and lumber shipments as part of a campaign to reclaim ancestral lands from agribusiness concerns and forest products companies.
In addition to demanding the scrapping of the anti-terror act, the hunger strikers called for the “demilitarization” of the poor southern region of Araucania, heartland of the 650,000-strong Mapuche nation, which lost 95 percent of its land during a “pacification” campaign at the end of the 19th century. EFE