by Azzura Lalani, 05 November 2015.
A Mapuche woman from Neuquén was found not guilty of attempted murder by the first intercultural jury trial in Latin America yesterday.
Relmu Ñamku celebrates the verdict (photo: 8300/ Avkin Pivke Mapu-Komunikación Mapuche via ANRed)
Relmu Ñamku was accused of attempted murder for allegedly throwing a rock at a court officer during a territorial dispute with an oil company in Neuquén on 28th December 2012. In a regional first, the 12-person jury that acquitted her had six Mapuche members on it. If found guilty, Ñamku could have spent over 15 years in prison.
“I’m very happy, celebrating,” said Ñamku in an interview with La Nacion. “This marks a precedent, we can throw light to the voice of indigenous peoples.”
Ñamku and other members of her community had blocked a road to prevent Apache Oil and police from entering their territory, Winkul Newen, in Portezuelo Chico, nearby to Zapala.
The court ordered the eviction of the Mapuche protesters to allow the oil company entry and conflict broke out. Stones were thrown and in the melee, court officer Veronica Pelayes was hit in the face. She suffered a broken nose and a cut to her cheekbone.
The resulting charge of attempted murder laid on Ñamku was criticised for its severity and because there was no evidence that she was responsible for throwing the rock. “They want to condemn me for being poor, indian and a woman,” said Ñamku at her trial.
The Mapuche people have battled oil spills and rights violations because of US company Apache Corporation in the past.
“It pains me to be sitting here while the real culprits are not, because they have power, they have money, and there is total impunity for them,” said Ñamku in an earlier interview with Télam.
Though she was acquitted of the attempted murder charge, Ñamku was charged with one count of vehicle damage.
Two other protesters also involved in the December 2012 incident were acquitted.
The trial was conducted in a tent specially set up for the occasion (photo: 8300/ Avkin Pivke Mapu-Komunikación Mapuche via ANRed)
Source: The Argentina Independent