A federal court in Argentina has approved the extradition to Chile of the Ancestral Mapuche Resistance (RAM, in its Spanish acronym) leader Facundo Jones Huala.
The ingenious leader, who was convicted in the neighbouring country of a number of crimes including arson, must be extradited to Chile to complete his remaining prison sentence, the court ruled, ending proceedings that began last Thursday.
The reading of the sentence took place with the participation by videoconference of Federal Justice Gustavo Villanueva. Jones Huala joined from Unit 14 from Esquel prison. Federal prosecutor Rafael Vehils Ruiz, and attorney Gustavo Franquet from the Argentine Attorneys’ Union representing the Mapuche leader were also involved.
Following this decision, the Mapuche leader has the possibility of appealing before the Supreme Court. However, the last word in this case will be with the Executive Branch, given that it involves extradition.
Defence attorneys have confirmed that they will appeal the measure, since a few days prior to the trial, they had assured that their “hands were tied” because the judge “barred the production of evidence, thus infringing on the due process right.”
Justice Villanueva read his decision on Monday over one hour and a half, in which he recommended the Chilean courts calculate the days Jones Huala was detained in Argentina and add them to his time served.
As for the defence’s accusation, Villanueva resolved to reject all the evidence presented by the defence and to accept all the evidence produced by the prosecution, left in charge of Cándida Echepare and Diego Solernó.
“With this decision, witnessed few times in the history of trials, we are totally prevented from attesting many of the grounds against extradition”, claimed attorney Eduardo Soares, representing Huala together with Gustavo Franquet.
The trial of leader Facundo Jones Huala started last Thursday morning in the city of Esquel, Chubut Province. Before the hearing started he stated: “Long live the RAM (Ancestral Mapuche Resistance), for those who say it doesn’t exist, the RAM exists and resists”.
He was accompanied by some 20 people to accompany the accused, mostly members of the Pu Lof Mapuche town in Resistencia Cushamen.
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 handed a nine-year prison term.
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.