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News > Latin America

Lawyers Demand Freedom for Argentine Leader Milagro Sala

  • Protesters march to demand freedom for jailed Indigenous leader and dissident lawmaker Milagro Sala in Buenos Aires on Jan. 27, 2016.

    Protesters march to demand freedom for jailed Indigenous leader and dissident lawmaker Milagro Sala in Buenos Aires on Jan. 27, 2016. | Photo: AFP

Published 30 January 2016

Milagro Sala has been called the first political prisoner of President Mauricio Macri's government and her arrest has sparked widespread outrage.

The legal team of jailed Argentine Indigenous leader and lawmaker Milagro Sala made a new request for her release on Saturday, one day after she was ordered to stay in prison on new charges.

Sala’s lawyers requested that she be released on bail with a bond fund as a guarantee. The legal representatives assured authorities that Sala’s freedom would “not disturb the investigation” being leveled against her.

We stay firm in our convictions. Free Milagro Sala.

The well-known Indigenous leader, founder of the 70,000 member Tupac Amaru organization, was arrested on Jan. 16 in the province of Jujuy on charges of inciting violence after protesting in a month-long sit in against Governor Gerardo Morales, who ordered her arrest.

A judge cleared Sala of those charges on Friday, but before she walked out of jail she was handed down a new set of accusations and ordered to stay behind bars while investigations into charges of “illicit association, fraud, and extortion” are launched at the request of the Jujuy government, local media reported.

As authorities peg various charges on the popular social leader, one of Sala’s children has been charged with leveling death threats against a labor activist.

OPINION: Mauricio Macri: A Rather Authoritarian Beginning

According to the conservative Argentine newspaper La Nacion, Morales has had a tense and “estranged” relationship with Sala for years. Morales has also had an antagonistic relationship with the social organizations and collectives with which Sala is aligned. Before her arrest, Sala was protesting in support of various organizations at risk of losing their legal status and social benefits after Morales threatened to suspend them via decree.

Fourth day of encampment to demand freedom for Milagro Sala.

Meanwhile, supporters have been occupying the Plaza de Mayo for four days to demand Sala be released from jail. Protesters in the camp, located in Buenos Aires’ main square in front of the Casa Rosada presidential palace, have vowed to continue occupying until Sala is allowed to walk free. Popular protests demanding her freedom have called her arrest illegal and discriminatory.

“In reality, the charges against Sala have no legal value and those who accuse her are trying to level a court case for which there is really no evidence, but they count on the media shield of the mainstream media in their eagerness to discredit the public image of Sala,” Rosario Dassem, member of Sala’s Tupac Amaru and one of the protesters in the encampment, told Prensa Latina.

In a handwritten letter attributed to Milagro Sala, reportedly written from jail in Jujuy on Saturday and shared by Argentine news outlet Agencia El Vigia, she wrote: “May this prison serve to find ourselves more united, more organized, more in solidarity for the happiness of the people.”

New letter from Milagro Sala: “May this prison serve to find ourselves more united and organized.”

The letter also extended sympathy to latest workers laid off in Macri’s cuts to the public sector and called on her supporters to defend the social gains made in the last 12 years in Argentina.

“Our tears of today will turn into a torrent of peace, strength, and joy in the future,” reads the letter dated Jan. 30.

Sala’s arrest has been widely interpreted as a form of political revenge against the social leader who has long been an ally of former leftist presidents Cristina Fernandez and Nestor Kirchner.

Many high-profile activists and opposition lawmakers have called Sala the first political prisoner of Macri’s government.

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