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LATIN AMERICA | 21-01-2022 23:49

Argentine Mapuche leader Facundo Jones Huala freed by Chilean court

A court in Chile on Friday freed Facundo Jones Huala, the leader of the Resistencia Ancestral Mapuche (RAM) indigenous Mapuche movement in Patagonia.

A court in Chile on Friday freed Facundo Jones Huala, the leader of the Resistencia Ancestral Mapuche (RAM) indigenous Mapuche movement in Patagonia.

The Court of Appeals in the southern city of Temuco granted "conditional release" to Jones Huala, who is serving a six-year sentence for arson and illegal possession of weapons.

Jones Huala was convicted in 2018 as the perpetrator of an arson attack of the Pisu Pisué hacienda located in the commune of Río Bueno, in the Los Ríos Region (900 km south of Santiago) and the illegal possession of firearms, crimes both committed in 2013.

But on Friday the Temuco court upheld an appeal for protection from his defence and "ordered that the proceedings to continue with the granting of parole requested by Jones Huala," a statement from the Chilean Judiciary said.

The court also indicated that "with the benefit of parole requested, the purpose of the sentence, which is re-socialisation, can be made compatible with the return of the sentenced person to his socio-cultural environment."

"The cultural approach of the sentenced person, who, according to the worldview of the Mapuche people maintains a spiritual connection with the land and the territory, must be taken into account," it added.

Jones Huala was arrested in Argentina in June 2017 after two years on the run as a fugitive from Chilean justice. Authorities in the neighbouring country had requested his international capture from Interpol in 2015. 

Following his arrest, then-Argentine president Mauricio Macri ordered his extradition after the Supreme Court upheld Chile's request.

The indigenous leader's release sparked immediate controversy in Argentina, with Macri's ex-security minister Patricia Bullrich alleging that Jones Huala wants to "continue the violence." She called on President Alberto Fernández to intervene to ensure "death and destruction" does not continue.

The regions of Biobío, Los Ríos and La Araucanía in southern Chile have seen several arson attacks on private properties and trucks by radical indigenous groups in the context of a centuries-old conflict in which the Mapuche are demanding land that they claim as their ancestral right and which the Chilean state handed over mainly to forestry companies.

The first inhabitants of Chile and part of Argentina, the Mapuche ("people of the earth" in their native language) number some 700,000 on Chilean soil, out of some 17 million inhabitants of the country.

 

– TIMES/AFP

 

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