In an eagerly awaited ruling, the Chilean Supreme Court has reduced the sentences of four Mapuch convicts. At the end of March, a military court sentenced the Mapuche under an anti-terrorism law dating from the time of the Pichochet dictatorship. The four Indians reacted with disappointment.
They were accused of armed robbery and assault with intent to kill in 2008. The decision was based on anonymous testimonies of witnesses. Although the highest judges now refused to annul the military procession. However, they lowered the penalties to 14 as well as eight years in prison, reports the daily La Nacion. Previously it was between 25 and 20 years.
"We are very disappointed by the court's decision," said Mapuche spokeswoman Natividad Llanquileo. The four Mapuche Indians have been on hunger strike for more than 80 days protesting their conviction and demanding a fair trial before a civilian court. The hunger strike will not end until the proceedings before the military court are annulled, Natividad Llanquileo said. The government, on the other hand, called for an end to the hunger strike. The trial had been made on the basis of the old anti-terrorism law, although Parliament approved an amendment to the controversial law in September.
The 650.000 Mapuche make up almost seven percent of the Chilean population. They are concerned with self-determination and the right to their ancestral land. After rounding up indigenous people, Chilean state criminalizes their protest and legitimate claim to their land with anti-terror law. The Chilean state and large mining and cellulose companies are interested in accessing the mineral resources, timber and water.