Chile denies house arrest for jailed Mapuche hunger strikers | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Chile denies house arrest for jailed Mapuche hunger strikers

September 29, 2017 - 2:04 PM

SANTIAGO, Chile - A court in Chile has rejected a request to grant house arrest four jailed members of the Mapuche indigenous group who have been on a hunger strike for more than 100 days.

They are accused of burning down an evangelical church last year in a southern region that the group claims as its ancestral territory. The court on Friday denied the request, which had been presented by the government and family members.

Chile's Catholic bishop's conference said it fears for the men's health. But prosecutors argued against house arrest, saying they represent a danger to society.

One of the four reportedly stopped drinking liquids Thursday night. Although a medical report had said earlier in the week that they all remained stable, two of them were recently taken to a hospital because of their weakening condition.

Relatives of the accused men are asking the government to give them a common trial instead of judging them through a terrorism law that dates from Gen. Augusto Pinochet's 1973-90 dictatorship. Human rights groups say the law is abusive because it allows for suspects to be held in isolation without charge for up to two years and for the use of secret witnesses.

The Mapuche are Chile's largest indigenous group. They resisted conquest for 300 years until military defeats in the late 19th century forced them into Araucania, south of the Bio Bio river. The government then encouraged European immigrants to colonize the area. As a group, the Mapuche are poorer than most Chileans and suffer higher rates of illness, malnutrition and discrimination.

About 200 of the 2,000 Mapuche communities in the south include radical factions that have occupied and burned farms and lumber trucks to demand the return of land taken or sold out from under them as recently as a century ago.

But police have also been accused of cracking down violently on protests, storming into Mapuche homes during raids and shooting rubber bullets and tear gas indiscriminately at women and children.


News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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