Mapuche leader extradition trial begins in Chubut

“I am not afraid of going to prison or of dying”

Facundo Jones Huala to be extradited to Chile. Image: Télam

The trial defining whether or not Mapuche leader Facundo Jones Huala will be extradited to Chile began on Thursday in the town of Esquel, Chubut. The neighboring government is demanding that Jones Huala serve the remainder of a jail sentence — he escaped house arrest in 2022. The ruling is expected on August 1.

During the first hearing, Federal Judge Gustavo Villanueva rejected a motion to dismiss the case presented by Jones Huala’s defense.

Upon entering the courtroom, Jones Huala screamed: “Long live the RAM (Ancestral Mapuche Resistance, by its Spanish acronym), which exists and resists.”

The Chilean government is calling for Jones Huala’s extradition to complete a 9-year prison sentence to which he was sentenced in 2018. The Mapuche leader was convicted for the arson of a farm in 2013 and illegal possession of a weapon. Jones Huala has one year and four months left to serve.

In February 2022, he escaped Chile while under house arrest, and remained almost a year on the run.

On January 30, he was arrested in the town of El Bolsón in Río Negro province, and a few days later he was transferred to the Esquel Penitentiary Unit.

On Thursday, Jones Huala’s lawyers insisted that they could not structure a defense because the court refused to allow them to present evidence. 

“We have witnessed a process in which the defense appears bound hand and foot, gagged,” said one of the defense lawyers, Eduardo Soares. The lawyer added that Chile “does not offer safeguards” nor does it guarantee that it will discount the time that Jones Huala spent detained from the sentence.

Jones Huala’s other lawyer, Gustavo Franquet, argued that the evidence rejected by the court aimed to demonstrate violations of human, ethnic, and political rights suffered by Jones Huala during his stay in the Chilean prison in Temuco between 2018 and 2022.

In his testimony, the Mapuche leader defined himself as a “fighter and revolutionary,” and said that new and increasingly greater conflicts will arise until “the state provides a political solution” to his claims. He accused Judge Villanueva of “having the blood of Rafael Nahuel on his hands.” In November 2017, Villanueva ordered a police operation for the eviction of the Villa Mascardi Mapuche community in Río Negro, during which Nahuel was killed by a Prefecture squad.

“I am not afraid of them, I am not afraid of going to prison or of dying,” said Jones Huala. 

Several trial attendees brought Mapuche and Tehuelche Indigenous flags, as well as posters depicting Santiago Maldonado — a young man who disappeared and was found dead 79 days later in a Mapuche community, during an operation by the Gendarmerie in 2017.

After Jones Huala’s declaration, Villanueva announced that he would rule on August 1 — the sixth anniversary of the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado.

— Télam

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