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- Urgent Global Solidarity Call -

Mapuche Hunger Strike Reaches DAY 70

Press release - 23th May, 2011

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Mapuche International Link will hold a public demonstration on Thursday (May 26) in support of four Mapuche political prisoners now entering DAY 70 of their hunger strike protest. The health of the four men is now very serious as they await a supreme court ruling (June 3) on their annulment appeal against their original trial, at which they were sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison for allegedly attacking a member of the Chilean judiciary.

The strikers, José Huenuche, Héctor Llaitul, Jonathan Huillical and Ramón Llanquileo, are calling for a fair and impartial retrial in accordance with international standards. They demand not to be tried under anti terrorism legislation, the use of which against Mapuche land rights activists has been widely condemned by the international community and involves suspects being tried simultaneously in military and civilian courts with the use of anonymous witnesses.

The four men are accused of attacking a Chilean prosecutor and of belonging to a campaign group classified as a terrorist organisation by the Chilean authorities. CAM (Coordinadora Arauco Malleco) campaign for the rights of Chile’s indigenous Mapuche people over their ancestral lands, which are mainly controlled by big corporations (such as logging corporations) and powerful private landowners. CAM has not been responsible for taking a single human life and patently does not represent a legitimate terror threat by any international standard.

The four condemned Mapuche whose previous hunger strike along with 30 other Mapuche political prisoners ended in October 2010 when the Chilean government bowed to international pressure and promised not to apply anti terrorism law against Mapuche activists and leaders demanding the restitution of their ancestral lands. However, on March 22 this year the four Mapuche leaders were convicted by a Chilean court again using mechanisms allowed solely under the application of these laws, which violate basic principles of due process.

The conviction of the four activists was based on the testimony of police and anonymous witnesses. The only named civilian witness who testified against the men was a Mapuche who was interrogated by the police during their investigation, and who human rights organisations allege had been tortured into giving a statement. International observers reported that the trial judge failed to demonstrate impartiality in the trial by accepting all the proposals of the prosecution and lawyers representing forestry companies and refuting all objections filed by the defence. Because the decision of the court was arbitrary and not corroborated by an independent and impartial tribunal, it can only add to the deep distrust which the Mapuche feel for the Chilean justice system.

LATEST HEALTH UPDATE: All four hunger strikers now require 24 hour monitoring by medical professionals, according to a medical report by Dr Juan Reinao on May 19. On that date the men had all lost between 17.2kg (Huenuche) and 21.5kg (Llaitul) since they began refusing food on March 15, 2011, and were suffering from extreme weakness, fever, dizziness and severe muscular cramps and headaches. The doctor also recommended that Llanquileo and Huenuche be removed from the prison to receive more intensive care, and that all four prisoners be monitored in an isolated space reserved for people with compromised immune systems, as their poor physical condition would make them vulnerable to infection.

We must put pressure on the Chilean government to stop using draconian Pinochet era anti terror laws against Mapuche leaders and land rights activists! The demonstration in support of the Mapuche hunger strikers will take place in front of the Chilean embassy (37-41 Old Queen St, London SW1H 9JA). The nearest underground station is St James’s Park. We invite you and your organisation to join us at the demonstration next Thursday, May 26, which will take place between 1.00 and 2.00pm.



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