Chile: Supreme Court annuls Mapuche convictions

By a unanimous vote, on Oct. 24 Chile’s Supreme Court of Justice overturned the convictions of two young Mapuche prisoners for the attempted homicide of Gen. Iván Besmalinovic, a commander of the carabineros militarized police, in November 2011. The two prisoners had been on a liquids-only hunger strike along with two other Mapuche prisoners since Aug. 27 in the city of Angol in the southern region of AraucanĂ­a. After receiving word of the court’s decision, the hunger strikers met with members of their home community, Wente Winkul Mapu, and on Oct. 25 they decided to end their fast.

“We assess the decision positively,” Wente Winkul Mapu spokesperson Daniel Melinao told the Associated Press wire service on Oct. 24. “[W]e’ve been saying for a long time that the brothers didn’t intend to murder the general, and today the court agreed that at no time there was an attempted homicide.” Mapuche activists hold that they are subjected to exaggerated charges and inflated sentences—sometimes under an “antiterrorist” law from the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet—for political actions caried out in their struggle to regain ancestral land.

A criminal court in Angol had sentenced Paulino Levinao Montoya and Paulino Levipán Coyán to 10 years in prison on Aug. 13 on the attempted homicide charge, plus 541 days for illegal possession of firearms. In its Oct. 24 decision the Supreme Court ordered a retrial of Levinao Montoya, ruling that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of intending to kill police agents. In the case of Levipán Coyán the justices found that the youth had wounded carabineros as they carried out a raid on Wente Winkul Mapu, but the court determined that he hadn’t fired with an intention to kill. His sentence was reduced to three years, which he can serve on parole. The court upheld the sentences for arms possession for both prisoners.

The two other hunger strikers, the brothers Erick and Rodrigo Montoya, are awaiting trial for attempted homicide of a police agent in a separate incident.

Five Mapuche prisoners in the city of Temuco ended a 23-day hunger strike on Oct. 23 when prison authorities agreed to their demand to be moved to the Angol prison, where they would be closer to their communities and other Mapuche prisoners. They went without food or water for the last five days of their fast. (La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 24 from correspondent, Oct. 25 from correspondent and unidentified wire services, Oct. 26 from correspondent; AP, Oct. 25, via Univision)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct 28