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Peru: Four Years of Uncertainty for Defendants in ‘Baguazo’ Clashes

With only a few months to go before the four year anniversary of the events in Bagua, the legal status of the 53 indigenous men indicted in the death of 12 police officers remains unresolved.

On Friday, March 8, the judges of the Bagua Temporary Criminal Court continued hearing the case against these 53 defendants. After statements by the 16 defense lawyers and representatives from the offices of both the public prosecutor and the attorney general, which began [es] the previous day, the court decided to postpone the trial [es].

Since it was alleged that the prosecution has not provided evidence of the defendants’ guilt, nor has it identified the crime committed by each one, it was expected [es] that the presiding judge would either close the case or return it to the prosecution to redraft the indictment. This, however, did not happen.

Inicia la marcha de apoyo. Foto de Denis Pashanase.

Front of the march in support of the defendants. Photo by Denis Pashanase, used with permission

Servindi reported [es] some of the details of the hearing:

Para Juan José Quispe, abogado del Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL), que patrocina la defensa de tres de los 53 indígenas procesados, la Fiscalía Superior de Bagua demostró una vez más que no existen pruebas para el inicio de un proceso oral. La Sala Penal Liquidadora Transitoria de Bagua [...] escuchó hoy los argumentos de titular de la Fiscalía Superior de Bagua, Edwin Humberto Vargas Daza. [...]

Para sorpresa de muchos y ante la evidente ausencia de argumentos, explica Quispe, el fiscal superior acusó a la Sala de ser ésta la que lo obligó a acusar a los nativos. [...] El abogado de IDL sostuvo finalmente que la Sala Penal Liquidadora Transitoria de Bagua decidiría en 15 o 30 días el archivo o el inicio de un juicio oral contra los dirigentes procesados por el denominado “Baguazo”.

For Juan José Quispe, a lawyer from the Legal Defense Institute (LDI), which is sponsoring the defense of three of the indigenous defendants, the senior prosecutor of Bagua proved once again that there is no basis for the start of oral proceedings. Today the Bagua Temporary Criminal Court… heard arguments by Bagua's chief prosecutor, Edwin Humberto Vargas Daza [...]

To everyone's surprise and without a clear case, says Quispe, the prosecution blamed the court for forcing him to bring charges against the native defendants…. The LDI lawyer ultimately held that the Bagua Temporary Criminal Court would decide in 15 or 30 days to shelve the case or begin oral arguments against the leaders accused of the “Baguazo.”

Meanwhile, Bagua Grande's “La Voz” radio station's blog chimed in [es]:

El abogado de IDL manifestó [...] que de las 197 paginas de la acusación fiscal contra varios procesados que incluso se les ha solicitado cadena perpetua, no veía motivaciones, no le encontraba nada para acusar a los indígenas de haber matado a los policías, cuando ni siquiera las balas en los fallecidos no han sido ubicadas, más bien las desaparecieron, incluso los exámenes de absorción atómica no han encontrado hasta hoy rastros de polvora en las manos de los indígenas. Calculó por último, que un promedio de 150 personas serán citadas en este proceso que según su parecer demorará dos años.

The LDI lawyer said… that in the 197 pages of the indictment against various defendants, including those who may be facing life imprisonment, you don't see motives, you don't find anything to suggest that the indigenous leaders killed the police officers, when even the bullets that killed them have not been found, rather they have disappeared, even atomic absorption tests haven't found a trace of gunpowder on their hands. He calculated that ultimately an average of 150 people will be called in this trial that in his view will take two years.

Vigilia en apoyo de los acusados. Foto de Denis Pashanase.

Vigil in support of the defendants. Photo by Denis Pashanase, used with permission

The situation in Bagua was a little shaky. On March 5, members of the Awajún Wampis, from the Amazon region, arrived in order to be present at the trial and hold vigils in front of the headquarters of the Criminal Court.

Although Aidesep, the association of various indigenous communities that has voiced its disapproval [es] of the request for life imprisonment for several of the defendants, asked its members to remain calm [es]. Along with the people of Bagua, they were outraged [es] by the possible sentence. They argue that the ones who should be sentenced are those that murdered the police officers, not the indigenous people who have focused on protecting the environment.

Cartel preparado para la marcha de apoyo a los acusados en Bagua. Foto de Denis Pashanase.

Sign made for the march in support of the defendants in Bagua. Photo by Denis Pashanase, used with permission

There is also concern abroad regarding the outcome of these charges. Various organizations sent [es] a letter [es] to the head of the Bagua Temporary Criminal Court, in which they called on the judges to maintain the integrity, independence and impartiality of the judiciary without starting criminal proceedings based on factually and legally unsubstantiated accusations.

It should be noted that legislators Verónika Mendoza and Eduardo Nayap also sent [es] a letter [es] asking the District Attorney to oversee the legal standards that are being applied in the monitoring of this case, adding that “This case is very sensitive for the country and it must be settled swiftly between the parties involved.”

Original post published on the Globalizado [es] blog by Juan Arellano.

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