Chilean prosecutor Hardy Torres requested a three-year and one-day jail sentence Tuesday for the nine Bolivian officials detained March 19 in the northern border region of Tarapaca.
Torres, who also requested that the defendants pay a fine of about US$48,000 for alleged smuggling, asked that they be charged with illegal possession of firearms and violent robbery, Terra reported. The prosecutor made the solicitation during an over four-hour-long court session.
The request came as Bolivian Foreign Minister Fernando Huanacuni denounced Chile during the 47th Organization of American States, OAS, General Assembly for the “unjust and arbitrary” detention of the nine Bolivian officials. Two of the detainees are soldiers and seven are customs agents.
“I want to reiterate the annoyance of my government,” Huanacuni said at the assembly, adding that the detainees are "public servants dedicated to the fight against smuggling." The Bolivian diplomat also asked Chile for the “immediate release” of the nine officials.
Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz responding by saying that “he does not accept that an internal legal situation in his country should being vented at the OAS” and warned that “the precedent that can be created with this case is interminable.”
Chile says the detained Bolivians were attempting to steal Chilean trucks. But Bolivia maintains that Chilean police crossed into its territory and detained the officers while they were performing a regular operation against smuggling.
Last year, Bolivia strengthened customs controls to stop the growing illegal transportation of goods to and from Chilean ports. The border area where the incident took place is reportedly often used by smugglers who illegally bring goods into Bolivia from China via Iquique.
Numerous officials and heads of state, including Bolivian President Evo Morales, have spoken out on behalf of the detainees, calling for the men’s release.