By Lindsay Green-Barber
QUITO — An Ecuadorian judge today ordered the release of indigenous leaders José Acacho, Pedro Mashiant and Fidel Karinas, who were arrested on 1 February on charges of terrorism and sabotage for leading by instigating a protest in 2009 in which one person died.
“Accepting the petition of habeas corpus in favor and provides for their immediate release,” ruled Judge María Cristina Narváez of the Pichincha court.
Approximately 300 hundred protestors erupted into jubilant cheers and chants of “libertad” in front Quito’s Corte Provincial de Justicia of Pichincha of when they heard the decision granting temporary freedom to Shuar nation leaders.
The judge determined that the imprisonment of three indigenous was “illegal and arbitrary,” puttin them in conditional release pending their trial.
Inside the courtroom, the decision was met with shouts of joy and tears by major indigenous leaders of Ecuador — with faces painted, hair feathers and wooden Spears — who had filled the small courtroom.
Following the judgment, Acacho, the leader of the Shuar, stressed the importance that justice will be independent and not subject to interference by the Executive.
“In the upcoming polls, democratically, we will bury and do away with this evil so-called citizen revolution,” said Acacho in reference to the main slogan of Ecuador President Rafael Correa.
The three are charged over events that took place on 30 September 2009, when confrontations between demonstrators protesting against a new water law and the national police ended with the death of a Shuar Professor Bosco Wismua, who suffered a fatal blow to the head.
The Government maintains that the death was not caused by the police.
Police then arrested Acacho, leader of the Shuar and director of their radio station Radio Arutam; Pedro Mashiant, provincial councillor in the town of Morona Santiago, and Fidel Karinas, the alleged perpetrator of the death of the instructor.
The initial hearing regarding the habeas corpus appeal had originally been scheduled for Monday, but was postponed to Wednesday.
The charges of sabotage and terrorism resulting in death against the three men still stand. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), along with other indigenous governmental organizations of Ecuador, intend to present a proposal of amnesty for all imprisoned indigenous leaders to the national assembly.