Peru mine protest leaders say ‘kidnapped’ by police

LIMA, Dec 7 (Reuters) – Foes of Newmont Mining’s $4.8 billion Conga mine project in Peru said on Wednesday they were “practically kidnapped” by counterterrorism police in a crackdown on left-wing activists by President Ollanta Humala.

Wilfredo Saavedra, leader of the Environment Defense Front of Cajamaraca, and Milton Sanchez, head of a civic association, were detained on Tuesday after addressing a congressional panel. They were held for 10 hours before being released.

Supporters said their rights were violated because police had no judicial order to detain them. Saavedra and Sanchez plan to file a legal complaint against the government.

Saavedra, who spent a decade in prison for belonging to the violent left-wing Tupac Amaru insurgency, has emerged as a high-profile leader in an environmental dispute that has tested Humala’s resolve to govern as a centrist trying to help Peru’s poor and attract foreign investment.

“They practically kidnapped us,” Saavedra said on RPP radio after he was released.

Humala, a former army officer who shed leftist rhetoric and recast himself as a moderate to win election in June, decreed a state of emergency on Sunday to break 11 days of protests that had shut roads, schools and hospitals in Cajamarca.

The special powers suspend freedom of assembly and allow the army to help police to end marches and rallies against Newmont’s proposed gold mine.

An emboldened Humala has called leaders of the environmental protest “intransigent” for rejecting weeks of mediation efforts.

“Today we have people who served time in jail for treason taking up causes they never defended and who are now free and acting like delinquents,” he said on Tuesday, hours before the detentions.


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