Mapuche activist sentenced for attacking Chilean police officer


Emilio Berkhoff sentenced to 541 days in prison for injuring a police officer in 2010 during a land rights protest in the southern city of Temuco.

On Monday, courts in Temuco found Emilio Berkhoff, an anthropology student and Mapuche land rights activist, guilty of attacking a police officer resulting in minor injury for which he was sentenced to 542 days in prison.

Terrorist suspect Emilio Berkhoff announced a hunger strike Tuesday. Photo by Radio Cooperativa / Facebook

The charge dates back to an incident that occurred during a land rights protest in Temuco in May, 2010. Berkhoff was found guilty of kicking Carabinero Sgt. Marco Torralbo Vera, allegedly breaking his thumb in the attack.

Chile’s Interior Ministry has taken a special interest in Emilio Berkhoff, who currently awaits proceedings in a number of cases including illegal possession of a firearm as well as arson and attempted robbery. The government believes he is a leader of the Coordinadora Arauco Malleco (CAM), an indigenous Mapuche resistance group it characterizes as a terrorist organization, a claim Berkhoff has continually denied.

Representatives of the ministry had reportedly asked for Berkhoff to be given four years in jail, while the local district attorney had sought three years and a day.

Elisa Jerez, Berkhoff’s mother, stood by her son and told local radio that she believes the sentence is a reflection of the pressure applied by the Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick.

“They have given the minimum penalty, but this is just to placate Chadwick,” Jerez said, explaining the evidence against her son should not have led to a conviction. “An injured police officer with unconfirmed fractures, without x-rays, without medical documentation. This is a tremendous travesty on the part of the Carabineros. Here this was given to please the puppet master, the interior minister.”

Berkhoff had previously fled from custody after fighting the courts to be released on bail pending trials for his arson and attempted robbery charges. At the time, he claimed he would not have a fair trial if he was forced to face the Chilean courts. The activist was apprehended in May after just over a month on the lam. If the courts were to find him eligible for probation, he would still remain in jail in preventive custody ahead of other trials.

Source: The Santiago Times

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