For the first time, a cross-cultural jury judges a Mapuche woman.
An unprecedented experience in Latin America. Six of the jury´s twelve members are indigenous. The female defendant is charged with assaulting a bailiff during a protest against an oil-fracking American company.
Yesterday in Zapala, Neuquén patagonian provinceof Argentina, the trial started against Relmu Ñamku, a prominent member of the Mapuche community who is accused of "attempted murder" against a judicial officer. She could face a sentence of 15 years in prison. The jury that will determine her innocence or guilt is cross-cultural; by law, 6 of its 12 members belong to the Mapuche community. In addition, the process is translated simultaneously in Mapuzungun (the native language of the Mapuche people). It is the first time in Latin America -perhaps in the world- that a jury is integrated in this peculiar way.
The prosecution requests 15 years in prison for the woman, a mother of three children, who represents the Newen Winkul community, located in Portezuelo Chico, about 30 kilometers from Zapala. She is accused of attacking the bailiff Veronica Pelayes during an eviction developed in indigenous ancestral territory. On December, 28, 2012, Pelayes -along with a group of agents, private security and a backhoe- entered Mapuche property and delivered an order issued by a civil district judge from Zapala allowing the progress of the work of the Apache Oil Co. that was operating in the area. (Today the area is operated by Y.P.F.).
The Mapuches had put up gates and fences to prevent oil drilling in the area, arguing that it contaminated their land spills. Despite the order, the members of the community attacked the group by throwing stones when the backhoe began removing the fences. One of the stones thrown by the Mapuches hit the officer Pelayes´ face, breaking her nose. Pelayes allegedely identified Relmu Ñanku as the one who threw the stone. Mauricio and Martin Maliqueo Rain were also charged in connection with the attack, but with a lesser charge of “aggravated harm.”
In the beginning, prosecutor Sandra Gonzalez Taboada started the case as "assault with severe bodily injuries", but then she changed the charges to "attempted murder” and “aggravated harm." This accusation implies a more severe penalty. "They want to scare other communities that are resisting the advance of the oil exploitation, ranchers, soy farmers and miners. This is a witness-case, due to intimidate other struggles, all social movements that defend their rights that this state not only does not guarantee but also undermines”, claimed the defendant.
Leading cultural figures and human rights activists, including Nobel Price winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and writer Osvaldo Bayer, have asked the Justice of Neuquén for a transparent process for those responsible for the alleged attacks. Amnesty International condemned the indictment and sent an inspector to trial.
- Clarin (27/10/15): Por primera vez, un jurado “intercultural” juzga a una mapuche [Ver]