Several human rights and political leaders were arrested and beaten Wednesday as they tried to enter the courthouse in the northwest Argentine town of Jujuy, in support of jailed Indigenous activist Milagro Sala.
Arrests took place as prosecutors were holding a hearing in Sala's case, who is also an MP of the Mercosur Parliament, as she faces charges of alleged fraud, criminal conspiracy and embezzlement of money intended by the government to help the poor.
A delegation led by national and provincial legislators arrived in Jujuy to participate in the last day of hearings in the trial against Sala, however only after much protest were some supporters allowed in under several restrictions.
"This is an oral and public trial, we have the right to be inside," said Congressman Carlos Tomada.
Police launched a clampdown on protesters, arresting and beating several, among them Congresswoman Mayra Mendoza from the leftist Front for Victory, who according to reports was severely beaten. Councilman Martin Rodriguez was detained by police, and the altercation left nine protesters and three police officers injured.
Several human rights organizations have denounced the government of President Mauricio Macri for the illegal detention of Sala, the Tupac Amaru social organization founder.
The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled in October that her detention was arbitrary and ordered Argentina's government to free her immediately. However, the Macri administration considered the decision non-binding.
A major leader of the 70,000-strong social organization, Sala is on trial for organizing protests against Jujuy state Governor Gerardo Morales in 2009.
She was arrested in January during a peaceful protest and charged with the serious allegations. If found guilty on Wednesday, she can be sentenced to up to 8 years in prison.
"We are trying to enter the hearing, which is public, but in Morales' Jujuy there are no rights.
"This is how they attacked the congresswoman in Jujuy," said former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
"We are with you Milagro Sala, this injustice will be the banner of the struggle of the Argentine people. A leader in jail is a mutilated humanity," said Bolivian president Evo Morales.