Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Chilean MPs join hunger protest by indigenous detainees

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on September 10, 2010

by BBC News, September 10th, 2010.

Four opposition congressmen in Chile have a joined a hunger strike by 34 indigenous Mapuche prisoners.

The Mapuches are protesting against being charged under anti-terrorist laws for their role in a land dispute. They say they are political prisoners and should not be treated as terrorist suspects or face trial in military courts. The government has called the congressmen’s decision “irresponsible and populist”.

President Sebastian Pinera has introduced a bill to modify the anti-terrorism legislation, which was established during the 1973-1990 military rule of Gen Augusto Pinochet. But the Mapuche prisoners say they want deeper reforms, as well as direct dialogue with the government.

Most of the prisoners have been refusing food for two months, causing them to lose up to 18kg (40lb) each. They are in jails across southern Chile awaiting trial on charges ranging from arson to armed assault. The current anti-terror legislation allows prosecutors to define such crimes as terrorism, bringing harsher sentences and the possibility of trial in military courts. (continue reading… )

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