A Chilean Criminal Court has announced the acquittal of the 11 Mapuche members held during investigations into the 2013 murder of wealthy business owners Werner Luchsinger and Vivianne Mackay.
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The presiding judge, Jose Ignacio Rau Atria, released the 11 defendants from the hearing in the Oral Criminal Court of Temuco due to insufficient evidence.
In the early morning hours of Jan. 4, 2013, in Vilcun, Chile, the home of Luchsinger-Mackay was set aflame by demonstrators commemorating the fifth anniversary of activist Matias Catrileo's death. Unable to escape, Luchsinger and Mackay died and were later found by police.
Eleven Mapuche members were arrested and charged after a lengthy four-year investigation.
The couple is survived by their son, Jorge Luchsinger MacKay, who said he had hoped the court’s conviction would bring him closure after his parents’ deaths.
"We had other expectations, but we expect institutions to function and in this case there is still a single prosecution and conviction," he said.
Nine of the 11 Indigenous community members have been held in pretrial detention, while the remaining two were transferred to house arrest after holding a hunger strike in protest of their imprisonment.
The group narrowly avoided a heavy prison sentence for what was considered a "terrorist attack" that would have started at a minimum of 40 years before assessing penitentiary conditions. Members have continuously claimed their innocence since the trial began in early August.
"I have no misconduct, it is the first time in 57 years that I am involved with a terrible death for pure lies," said Francisca Linconao who was incriminated in the case.
"I am innocent. I am Machi, traditional authority, I can not lie,” she said outside court Tuesday, maintaining that all allegations made against her were false. “It is very serious what happened with Luchsinger-Mackay.”
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"Let us not continue mistreating, punishing the Mapuche poor."
Among those who will be returning home as proceedings come to a close on Nov. 14 are Jose Tralcal Coche, Luis Tralcal Quidel, Aurelio Catrilaf, Sabino Catrilaf, Juan Tralcal Quidel, Juan Segundo Tralcal Coche, Sergio Catrilaf Marilef, Eliseo Catrilaf Romero, José Cordova Transito, Francisca Linconao and Jose Peralino Huinca.
The 11 Mapuche were represented by La Araucania defense prosecutor, Renato Gonzalez, as well as public prosecutors Mario Vargas Quezada, Marcelo Pizarro, Pablo Ardouin Borquez and Mapuche defenders Humberto Serri Gahardo, Jaime Lopez Allende and Rodrigo Roman.
"The state is going to have to answer for the extreme measures they enforced," said Jose Peralino, one of those previously accused.