On April 9, citing lack of evidence, a three-judge panel of the Oral Criminal Court in the Chilean city of Angol (in Region IX, La Araucanía) unanimously acquitted three Mapuche activists of charges they were responsible for “terrorist arson and threats” in violation of the state security law.
In the trial, which began March 31, Mapuche lonkos (community leaders) Pascual Pichún and Aniceto Norún and activist Patricia Troncoso Robles (alias La Chepa) were accused of setting a fire on December 12, 2001, that damaged property at the Nancahue estate in Region IX, owned by former agriculture minister Juan Agustín Figueroa.
Norín has been jailed since January of last year, Pichún since March of last year, and Troncoso since September. The government’s key witnesses included police agents who are on permanent guard at the Nancahue estate, and at least two “faceless” witnesses whose identity was kept secret.
Juan Pichún, a spokesperson for the families of the three activists, said “justice was done,” but faulted the state for their lengthy and unjust detention. The acquitted activists now plan to sue the state for compensation. In the meantime, they will remain in prison under preventive custody as they face charges in a separate case of “illegal terrorist association” and, in the case of Troncoso, arson for another attack. (Mapuexpress - Informativo Mapuche 4/10/03; La Tercera (Chile) 3/31/03, 4/1/03, 4/4/03; El Mostrador (Chile) 4/1/03, 4/10/03)
On March 28, a homemade explosive caused minor damages to the court building in Temuco, also in Region IX. (LT 3/31/03) An arson attack was carried out April 1 at the Lleu Lleu estate in Arauco province (Region VIII). The Lleu Lleu estate has suffered at least 20 arson attacks; its owner, Osvaldo Carvajal, said the April 1 one was probably in retaliation for his scheduled testimony against the Mapuche activists in the Angol trial. (EM 4/2/03; LT 4/4/03)