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  HOME | Chile

Seven Arrested for Threatening Chilean Prosecutor Freed Pending Trial

SANTIAGO – A Chilean court granted pre-trial release on Friday to all but one of eight people arrested this week for threatening the prosecutor investigating a police officer for tossing a teenage protester into a river.

Only one of the suspects, a male with the initials P.E.M.C. who was detained in illegal possession of an Uzi submachine gun, was remanded to custody.

The five other men and two women charged with sending a threatening letter to Ximena Chong were released with a requirement to appear before the court once a month and stay away from the prosecutor and her family.

“It an organized group that had as its aim to threaten and impede that the official do her duty. It is not an isolated event or circumstantial,” the director of the investigative police, Hector Espinosa, said on Wednesday following the arrests.

It was Chong who reviewed television footage of the Oct. 2 incident in Santiago and identified Sebastian Zamora, a member of the Carabineros – Chile’s militarized national police – as the one who hurled the 16-year-old protester into the Mapocho River from a height of 7.5 meters (24 feet).

The adolescent was badly hurt, but survived and is reported to be recovering at his family’s home.

Zamora was dismissed from the Carabineros and detained on charges of attempted homicide and failing to render aid to the injured teen.

The resulting public outcry forced the resignation of Interior Minister Victor Perez and brought renewed calls for a reform of the Carabineros in view of their brutality toward participants in Chile’s largest protests since the end of the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

As of Oct. 1, prosecutors had opened more than 4,600 probes into accusations of human rights violations by the Carabineros over the course of the uprising that began in October 2019 over the extreme inequality that prevails in Chile, but only 75 officers had been formally charged.

Some 30 people died and thousands more were injured in the initial wave of large mobilizations a year ago. Turnout dwindled during the Southern Hemisphere winter and protests halted when Chile entered lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the easing of restrictions, demonstrations resumed ahead of the Oct. 25 referendum where Chileans voted in favor of drafting a new constitution to replace the one imposed by Pinochet in 1980.

Friday evening, thousands of people marched toward Santiago’s La Moneda Palace, the seat of government, to demand the resignation of President Sebastian Piñera, a right-wing billionaire who made his fortune during the Pinochet era.

The Carabineros intervened with tear gas and water cannon to stop the protesters from reaching the palace, prompting some in the crowds to hurl Molotov cocktails and rocks at the officers.

There were also instances of looting and vandalism.

 

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