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Milagro Sala goes on hunger strike

Túpac Amaru leader Milagro Sala is seen in prison in Jujuy province in June.
Túpac Amaru leader Milagro Sala is seen in prison in Jujuy province in June.
Túpac Amaru leader Milagro Sala is seen in prison in Jujuy province in June.
Jailed social activist protests over the conditions of her detention in Jujuy province

Jailed Túpac Amaru leader and Parlasur lawmaker Milagro Sala began a hunger strike yesterday over the “arbitrary decision” by the prison in Jujuy province where she is detained to impose strict isolation measures on her and restrict visitors.

In press releases published shortly after Sala began her hunger strike yesterday morning, the Túpac Amaru group slammed the decision as an illegal infringement on civil rights and called for its immediate reversal.

“Túpac Amaru and the United Front for Popular Sovereignty immediately demanded that the measure be suspended and made the provincial Governor Gerardo Morales and his Security Minister Ekel Meyer directly responsible for punishing the social leader. The defence will file a complaint of (infringement of) habeas corpus with regards to the worsening conditions of detention,” the organization said in a statement posted on its website.

Túpac Amaru referenced unconfirmed legal sources which said that the imposition of new sanctions against Sala was “due to repeated reports of Milagro Sala’s misconduct,” but added that the response was disproportionate and its imposition without informing the detainee of how it infringed her rights.

“As the defence indicated, reports do not equate to a penalty and that penalty was not imposed legally and not properly notified to her or her lawyers, violating the legitimate rights of the defence to oppose it.”

On January 16, Judge Gastón Mercau ordered the arrest of Sala, the leader of the Túpac Amaru, which was created in the 1990s in the northern end of the country and later allied itself with the Victory Front (FpV) of former presidents Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. She was accused of “inciting violence” — a charge that was later dropped.

She is currently charged with embezzlement concerning government donations to housing projects managed by Túpac Amaru that prosecutors say were never completed.

Mercau’s decision to arrest Sala came after she and other Túpac Amaru activists staged a sit-in at the Belgrano square in San Salvador de Jujuy to protest Morales’ decision to set new regulations for cooperatives.

Her detention initiated strong criticism from human rights groups across Argentina and beyond, who have demanded her immediate release.

In February, a group of human rights organizations including the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), Amnesty International and Andhes submitted a complaint to the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, arguing that Sala’s arrest was made on insufficient grounds.

Prison conditions in spotlight

Sala’s lawyers also issued a statement condemning what they called the “harassment of political prisoners” yesterday, referring to reports of mistreatment of other inmates at the Jujuy prison where Sala is held.

“The harassment of the 11 political prisoners on the orders of Governor Gerardo Morales translates into illegitimate and arbitrary sanctions as apply to the case of Milagro Sala

Túpac Amaru indicated in their press release that Sala has repeatedly cited the use of illegal “punishment cells” at the prison on her and other inmates and referenced a report filed by the Prosecutors Against Institutional Violence (PROCUVIN) organization.

“It is worth remembering that not long ago, following a complaint from PROCUVIN on the existence of punishment cells in Villa Devoto (Buenos Aires province), the Prison Service establishment decided on the closure of those cells since they violate the minimum standards set by the United Nations regarding conditions of detention.”

Sala’s husband Raúl Noro was also arrested in July after he appeared before the Jujuy provincial court.

In the weeks before his arrest he told the Herald in an interview that Sala’s prison conditions were “not very inhumane” but cited mistreatment of prisoners in the forced exposure to cold water during winter and restrictions on visits.

“She is doing OK. While she is not being held in very inhumane conditions, she is in a jail which isn’t in good shape like those in the rest of the country. They were without hot water for 20 days and you are forced to take showers even when the water is cold. So these are the type of problems she faces,” he said.

Herald with Télam, online media

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