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Chile indigenous leader gets 18 years for murders

01 march 2014, 12:59
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Celestino Cordova, a 27-year-old indigenous Mapuche healer known as "machi". ©Reuters/Jose Luis
Celestino Cordova, a 27-year-old indigenous Mapuche healer known as "machi". ©Reuters/Jose Luis
A Chilean court sentenced a leader of the country's Mapuche population to 18 years in jail on Friday for a fire that killed an elderly farmer and his wife, AFP reports.

The January 2013 fire was part of a wave of attacks in territories where the indigenous Mapuche Indians claim historic rights. The government has blamed the violence on a radical movement within the group.

The home of Werner Luchsinger, 75, and his wife Vivianne McKay burned to the ground and their charred bodies were found inside.

The family, of Swiss origin, has a large presence in southern Chile, and their properties had been targeted by arson attacks in the past.

Celestino Cordova was convicted last week for his "unequivocal participation" in the attack, but the government was angered by the sentence he was given Friday.

"We believe that a greater sentence should have been handed down, given the gravity of the crime that killed this married, elderly couple," Interior Minister Andres Chadwick said, announcing that a team would examine the case for "legal error" and grounds for a possible revision of the judgment.

The court dismissed the government's claim that the crime was terrorist in nature, which would have carried tougher penalties than under criminal law.

Chile's government has sought in recent years to invoke the anti-terrorism law to try cases involving arson occurring in the Araucania region where most Mapuche communities are concentrated.

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