A criminal appeals court in Paraguay has overturned the contested prison sentences issued against 11 campesinos, known as the 'Curuguaty affair,' used by conservative elites as a pretext to oust progressive President Fernando Lugo in 2012.
"There won't be any other trial, but the court's decision is simply revoked. They must be released," said Judge Emiliano Rolon.
The judges agreed the trial failed to demonstrate that the campesinos had a clear relation with the crimes they were accused of. "(Prosecutors) could not prove who shot. They lacked evidence," Rolom said.
Paraguay's Supreme Court of Justice agreed last month to release three of the 18 campesinos jailed since the violent clashes in 2012 that ensued when more than 300 riot police forcefully evicted campesinos from a lot of land they were occupying, resulting in the death of six police officers and 11 campesinos.
The three campesinos had completed six years of house arrest and were granted their habea corpus request, while fellow campesinos remained in jail.
In May 2017, a court upheld the July 2016 sentences imprisoning the three campesinos for six years; four campesinos to prison sentences between 18 and 30 years, and four other campesinos to four years.
The campesinos – including two who were minors at the time, and relatives of campesinos killed in the massacre – were officially convicted of murder, invasion of private property and other charges.
Prosecutors have so far only investigated the deaths of the police officers, but none of the riot police have been put on trial for the deaths of campesinos.
The activists said their movement was infiltrated by undercover police who were responsible for the deaths of six police officers and 11 campesinos during the clashes.
Months before the massacre, campesinos launched the Marina Kue land occupation to reclaim farmland which they said was illegally privatized during the three-decade dictatorship.
After a year-long trial that critics have slammed as a farce, the exact details of the eviction remain unclear. What remains unquestionable is that violence ensued as security forces exercised force to remove the occupiers.