Alejandro Rodríguez and Patricio Gallardo released from prison

Posted on October 15, 2011

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From Liberación Total (October 8, 2011):

After 13 months and 1 week unjustly imprisoned, former Lautarino political prisoners Alejandro Rodríguez Escobar and Patricio Gallardo Trujillo—locked up since August 30, 2010—were finally released by the Santiago Fourth Circuit Court of Civil Rights on Friday, October 7.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Civil Rights actually accepted the defense’s petition for release on September 27, but the Court of Appeals decided to reject it—a decision that was only in effect for just over a week, given the unsustainable “precedents” the prosecutor insisted on presenting as “evidence.”

Rodríguez and Gallardo had been locked up in degrading conditions in the Maximum Security Wing of Santiago 1 Penitentiary Detention Center. In late December 2010, they began a month-long liquid hunger strike condemning the illegality of their imprisonment and the violation of their rights and the norms of due process. The mass media nevertheless depicted them as “dangerous terrorists” and “bank robbers,” and even attempted to link them to the poorly named Bombings Case.

During the course of the investigation—which was initially given a 90-day time frame—the Fourth Circuit Court of Civil Rights granted their release on numerous occasions while criticizing the “evidence” submitted by the prosecutor’s office. Judge Jorge Norambuena even went so far as to state that the “photographic identification and roundup of the arrestees was completely illegal,” adding that the “prior sentences of 1999 and 2000 cannot be considered as precedents of criminal behavior by this Court because they were issued by courts martial that did not respect the civil rights of a democratic State.” Norambuena cited international agreements to which Chile adhered, deeming the prosecutor’s “evidence” to be “insufficient and illegal.” Despite the prosecutor’s office knowing that the “evidence” submitted was illegal and that the charges were absurd, it still kept Rodríguez and Gallardo locked up for 13 months. Now that they have been released, which authorities are going to take responsibility for having put completely innocent people in prison?

The southern region prosecutor wound up abandoning the “charges,” and the eastern region prosecutor did the same on October 12 during a new hearing attended by both freed “suspects.” A legitimate question is whether the prosecutor, attorney general, and governor, through their police organs, will continue to charge innocent people, keeping them locked up for months or years at a time. Will they continue to “frame” people after these embarrassing “proceedings” and “investigations” that ultimately went nowhere?

The Antiterrorist Law signed by dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1984 is being widely applied, charging innocent people with “bank robberies” and the “placement of explosive devices” while imprisoning Mapuche community leaders who are already the object of constant repression and criminalization. Many have condemned such cases, including those involving the Mapuche, as “aberrant police, judicial, political, and media set-ups.” Sadly, it looks as though innocent people will continue to be charged and imprisoned for months or years by those who are simply doing dirty work and then acting innocent. Will innocent people continue to be sentenced, even in violation of the laws, international agreements, and treaties upheld by the very State being thus defended? Are we to keep living and suffering under this kind of “judicial fascism”?

After a year in prison, Rodríguez declared: “I am a hostage of capitalism, abducted by the State, deprived of liberty. . . . I expect to be acquitted of all the charges they have leveled against me. . . . The prosecutor has no material evidence linking me to anything illicit. My defense has been able to prove—with evidence, documents, and several witnesses—my complete innocence, putting the hearsay directed against me to shame and verifying the faulty, low-grade investigation by the prosecutor and the Investigative Police (PDI), which clings to my political past in order to keep me imprisoned. I am a prisoner, criminalized by acts committed more than 18 years in the past, and for which I served almost 12 consecutive years in prison followed by 6 years of probation.” He added: “My case, just like that of several comrades who have a political past, is a persecution designed to use our past in order to give political weight to the poorly named Bombings Case. But with the passage of time, that case has been gradually revealed to be a political, judicial, and media set-up that only seeks our criminalization.”

In an interview, Rodríguez’ lawyer Jaime Madariaga de la Barra stated: “Sadly, in Chile, the fact that the prosecutor’s office is supposed to act with the same zeal to prove the innocence as well as the guilt of the accused for the entire duration of an investigation is nothing more than poetry. . . . What’s certain is that objectivity does not exist in Chilean judicial reality, especially regarding people who have a political past of social struggle, Mapuche, and those who take part in social protest, among others.” He emphatically added: “I have no doubt that Alejandro Rodríguez deserves to be acquitted.”

Despite the initial period of investigation in this proceeding being set at 90 days, the only thing the prosecutor’s and attorney general’s offices did was prolong the “investigation” in order to ultimately drop their aberrant, absurd charges. In a statement given on September 9 in front of the prosecutor himself, one of the supposed “witnesses” who “identified” Rodríguez and Gallardo as “bank robbers” said: “I was coaxed by the police to identify them.” That partial confession reveals the lack of evidence. We ask: will someone be made to take responsibility for the police activity leading to the unjust imprisonment—for over a year—of completely innocent former political prisoners? Who is going to compensate Rodríguez, Gallardo, and their families for all the pain they suffered, for all the time they were unable to work, study, or embrace their loved ones?

In his final public statement from prison, Rodríguez declared: “This blatant set-up must fall apart. There are no more arguments to keep the investigation open. Our arrest that August 30, 2010 was a ruse, menacingly plotted, that only sought to terrify and criminalize. They wanted to link us to the Bombings Case by using the bourgeois mass media. . . . They said we committed “bank robberies” in order to “finance anarchist cells.” They also said there were “explosives” in my home. What was the basis for all that?”

We know that in this kind of police State, the police aberrations and judicial-political set-ups will continue.

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