On Tuesday, February 22nd, the Court of Cañete announced that the seventeen Mapuche individuals who had been accused of being part of a terrorist conspiracy between 2005 and 2008, had been acquitted. In addition, the Court did announce the convictions of four of the seventeen on non-terrorist charges, including attempted murder.
The decision ends a process that began more than two years ago for many of the acquitted. Initially charged under the Antiterrorism Law in military court, these individuals were moved to civilian court in late 2010 after an extended hunger strike by Mapuche prisoners that lasted over 80 days. After being transferred, the trial began and proved to be an extensive ordeal that took place over three months, included the testimony of more than thirty secret witnesses (witnesses whose identity is kept secret from the defendants and who testify without being seen), and information from more than 100 wire taps. After all the evidence was heard, the Court ruled that the facts did not support the claim that the accused had participated in an activity of a terrorist nature.
On the other hand, the Court did convict four of the Mapuche of armed robbery and attempted murder. These charges stemmed from an attack in 2008 of Mario Elgueta, a prosecutor, as well as several Chilean police officers. The four individuals convicted— Héctor Llaitul, Ramón Llanquileo, José Huenuche and Jonathan Huillical—will be sentenced in March. It is reported that the Chilean Government will be asking for over 100 years in prison.
Of the thirteen who were found innocent of all charges, eight were immediately released—some experiencing freedom for the first time in more than two years—while the other five required minor processing before they, too, will be set free. Reports from the courtroom report mixed emotion, including both joy at being reunited with family, but also frustration at the length of the process and losing so much time in prison.