Tuesday, July 23, 2024

ARGENTINA | 04-01-2024 18:01

Mapuche leader Facundo Jones Huala extradited to Chile

Mapuche leader Facundo Jones Huala extradited from Argentina to Chile, where he will finish serving jail time for convictions for possession of firearms and arson.

Facundo Jones Huala, the controversial leader of the Ancestral Mapuche Resistance (RAM) group, was extradited by Argentina to Chile on Thursday, the latest development in a long-running judicial saga.

Jones Huala will finish serving a six-year prison sentence that expires in mid-June.

“Today the leader of the Ancestral Mapuche Resistance will be extradited from Esquel, Chubut, to Chile to continue to comply with Chilean courts,” stated presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni at his regular press conference on Thursday.

The extradition of the 37-year-old from the jail in Esquel where he has detained took place under heavy security, with the indigenous leader dressed in a bulletproof vest and helmet. The operation was overseen by Interpol and both the Argentine Federal Police and Airport Security Police. 

Jones Huala has been a fugitive from the Chilean justice system since February 11, 2022.

In 2018, a Chilean court found the Mapuche leader guilty of possession of firearms and arson in the southern Los Ríos region, offences dating back five years earlier.

After serving two-thirds of his time, an appeals court granted Jones Huala parole, but in February 2022, the Chilean Supreme Court ordered he be imprisoned once again.

After becoming a fugitive from justice, he was re-arrested in January 2023 in La Esperanza, Chubut, near the foothills of the Andes, by Argentine authorities.

Last December, while detained, Jones Huala carried out a hunger strike for 25 days in order to secure his freedom and reject his extradition to Chile, which ultimately took place on Thursday morning.

Who is Facundo Jones Huala?

Francisco Facundo Jones Huala has been a fugitive from the Chilean justice system since February 11, 2022.

Authorities in both Argentina and Chile say he is the leader of RAM, an extremist group which has been blamed for attacks on properties in both nations. 

The activist was convicted in 2018 by a court in Chile as the perpetrator of an arson attack on the Pisu Pisué ranch located in the commune of Río Bueno, in the Los Ríos region (900 kilometres south of Santiago) and for the illegal possession of firearms, crimes both committed in 2013. 

He was sentenced to nine years in prison, although the sentence was later commuted to six years.

The Mapuche leader was arrested in Argentina in June, 2017, after two years on the run as a fugitive. Following his arrest, then-president Mauricio Macri ordered his extradition after the Supreme Court upheld Chile's request for extradition.

Jones Huala was imprisoned in Temuco, southern Chile, in 2018, but – in response to an appeal for legal protection filed by his defence team – the RAM leader was released on parole on January 21, 2022. 

He took up residence in a Mapuche community in Temuco until his release was finally challenged by the Chilean government and his conviction upheld by the Chilean Supreme Court, which ordered him to return to prison in February, 2022.

Jones Huala fled and his whereabouts was unknown until his arrest in Patagonia on January 30, 2023.

Ten of thousands of Mapuches, members of an indigenous people established on both sides of the Andes in Chilean and Argentine territory, claim the return of their ancestral lands and assets. 

RAM is a marginal group within the numerous Mapuche communities inhabiting southern and central Argentine provinces.


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