Lack of Evidence Against Those Tried for “Baguazo”

Decision will be made in 15 to 30 days to close the case or begin a trial against indigenous leaders.

Translated from article on Servindi, published 7th March.

The hearings on whether to start trial of those accused of responsibility for events at Bagua was held on Thursday. According to Juan José Quispe, an attorney from the Legal Defense Institute (IDL), which sponsors the defense of three of the 53 indigenous leaders accused, the Senior Prosecutor of Bagua proved once again that there is no evidence for the initiation of a trial.

The Bagua Transitory Criminal Chamber investigating the case, which occurred on 5th June 2009, heard arguments from the Senior Prosecutor of Bagua, Edwin Humberto Vargas Daza. These events occurred when the Peruvian military entered Bagua to stop protests, resulting in two days of bloody confrontations, where at least 30 people were killed, including 23 policeman.

According to the defense lawyer, Vargas Daza showed today that the prosecution lacks evidence to indict indigenous leaders for the killing of 12 policemen, and for causing serious injury to another 18 officers from the “Devil’s Curve”.

To the surprise of many and considering the evident lack of arguments, explains Quispe, the chief prosecutor blamed the Chamber for forcing him to accuse the natives.

Indigenous organizations commented on the accusation against their leaders, asking that the investigation be directed instead to finding the real culprits of the tragic events that took the lives of indigenous people and police, as well as leaving one missing person.

The prosecutor’s arguments failed

It´s important to remember that the Bagua assistant prosecutor, José Espichan Gadea, made the accusation against the defendants, asking for sentences of over 30 years in prison and even for life imprisonment. But it was the chief prosecutor who was responsible for sustaining these charges.

Thus, on Thursday morning Vargas Daza appeared before the Bagua Transitory Criminal Chamber, presided over by Judge Zabarburu Gonzalo Saavedra, in a performance that left more than one with an open mouth.

For the chief prosecutor of Bagua, explains Juan José Quispe, presenting evidence is not necessary for the case to go to trial.

Lawyers defending the accused Indians identified that the pronouncements made by Mr. Vargas contained a lack of awareness of the current Code of Criminal Procedure.

The IDL noted in a statement (original in Spanish), that to prove blame prosecutors must demonstrate solid evidence with testimonies that directly incriminate defendants for the crimes they are accused of.

Additionally, there should be video evidence that clearly establishes when the defendant commits the offense, or a scientist who can give evidence proving that the person tried is directly linked with the crime.

But the most serious of all the assertions made by Vargas Daza came later, when he accused members of the Board of forcing him, through a resolution, to accuse the natives.

At this point, the IDL lawyer stressed the seriousness of the prosecutor’s words, which allude to an intrusion of powers. “The prosecutor does not order the Justice Department,” said Quispe.

Quispe affirmed that if the Bagua Chamber gave instructions “it was not to order the prosecutor to accuse, as he can either do this or close the case, especially if there is no evidence against the leaders of indigenous communities.”

Finally, IDL’s lawyer stated that the Bagua Transitory Criminal Chamber would decide in 15 to 30 days to close the case or begin a trial against the accused leaders of “Baguazo”.

Demonstrations in support of indigenous leaders continue

On Wednesday, the Frente de Defensa y Desarrollo de Alto Amazonas (Fredesaa) and other indigenous organizations conducted a 24-hour strike in support of indigenous leaders and the president of the Asociación Interétnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana (AIDESEP), Alberto Pizango Chota, who is among those accused for the events in Bagua.

In the provincial capital Yurimaguas, protestors marched through the main streets of the city. Activity in stores and the port was put on a standstill from early in the morning.

The regional bases of the Organización de Pueblos Indígenas del Oriente (ORPIO) also demanded justice for the 53 indigenous leaders charged. They described this case as “arbitrary”, and “unacceptable”, “persecuting” the indigenous people.

The Governing Board of the Organización Regional Aidesep Ucayali (ORAU), a regional base of AIDESEP, which brings together 15 indigenous peoples of the Ucayali region and 12 district organizations, also made a statement.

They demanded that the High Court of Bagua absolve their indigenous brothers and punish the real culprits. They expect these indigenous leaders´ rights to be respected and affirm that they “we will be supporting actions in defense of their freedom.”

Deborah Rivett, Saturday, 09 March 2013