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In Ecuador, indigenous leaders sentenced to 12 years in jail for "terrorism"

Ecuadorian Shuar indigenous persons protest outside the courthouse in Quito shortly after former Indigenous leader Pepe Acacho arrived for a hearing, 7 February 2011.
Ecuadorian Shuar indigenous persons protest outside the courthouse in Quito shortly after former Indigenous leader Pepe Acacho arrived for a hearing, 7 February 2011.

REUTERS /Hernan Ramos

On August 12, 2013, the Appeals Court of Morona Santiago confirmed that indigenous leaders Pepe Acacho and Pedro Mashiant were condemned of the crime of organized terrorism. The case extends back to protests in 2009, during which time Acacho was the director of Radio La Voz de Arutam and president of the Shuar indigenous federation.

The court's decision condemned Acacho and Mashiant of being "(...)co-responsible for the crime of organized terrorism, under articles 160.1 or 160.a of the Criminal Code, consequence of which professor Bosco Wisuma Chapaik died. Due to the attenuating circumstances under sections 6 and 7 of article 29 of the Criminal Code (non-dangerous conduct before and prior to the facts), and considering there are no criminal records, the accused are sanctioned with twelve years of prision and a fine of $US 4,418 (...)".

On August 9, the decision was made public through the Twitter account of the PR officer of the National Council for the Judiciary, but she later denied that this was so. Acacho currently serves as a congressman in the National Assembly.

On July 19, the accused were condemned by a first instance court. Five other persons were acquitted of the same charges.

The case extends back to public protests against the Water Law by indigenous communities on September 30, 2009, when violent clashes among the police and civilians took place. Throughout the course of these events, professor Bosco Wisuma was killed. Acacho was detained on February 2011, under the accusation of having instigated the population to commit the violent acts through his radio program. He was released days later after presenting a habeas corpus plea.

In an interview on Rayuela Radio on August 9, Acacho said "I'd rather be condemned myself rather than see my people condemned, because I may be acquitted, but my people may not, and they deserve to be free. Mining is still a big threat, as is oil exploitation. Therefore, I will serve my time to keep my people free".



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