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ARGENTINA | 19-06-2024 12:01

Vast majority of detained Congress protesters released without charge

Of the 33 individuals arrested during clashes outside Congress, 28 now freed without charge; Judge María Servini ordered their "immediate release," remanding five suspects in custody.

Federal Judge María Servini on Wednesday ordered the immediate release of 11 people arrested in connection with the violence in Congress last week as the Senate debated the ‘Ley de Bases’ mega-reform bill.

Declaring there was a lack of evidence to detain them further, Servini’s ruling came as a demonstration drew more than 5,000 people to the Plaza de Mayo to demand the release of those arrested last week as security forces clashed with protesters.

The rally was attended by opposition leaders, left-wing groups and relatives of the detainees.

Servini’s decision follows the release of 17 detainees five days previous due to a lack of evidence to prove their participation in acts of vandalism.

Twenty-eight of the 33 people arrested during the clashes have now been released without charge, casting doubt on the national government’s accusations that protesters were “terrorists” seeking to perpetrate a coup d'état.”

Five others – Patricia Calarco Arredondo, David Sica, Cristián Fernando Valiente, Roberto María de la Cruz Gómez and Facundo Ezequiel Gómez – remain in custody.

The terrorism accusation in particular sparked concern among human rights groups, who say it could lead to sentences being doubled if detainees are successfully prosecuted.

Lawyers for those detained say their clients suffered illegal coercion, humiliation, torment, serious injuries and were victims of an abuse of authority. They also accused officials and police of malfeasance.

Many of those detained say they were denied access to toilets, forced to go without food or water for lengthy periods and handcuffed for hours.

 

Peronist complaints

Tensions outside Congress spilled over into violence last week as the Milei government’s sweeping ‘Ley de Bases’ reform bill won approval in the Senate.

Among those caught up in the clashes were five opposition Peronist deputies, all of whom received medical treatment after being tear-gassed by the security forces.

On Tuesday, the Unión por la Patria coalition announced it had filed a legal complaint with the federal courts regarding the treatment of several of its legislators during the protest.

Peronist lower house caucus chief Germán Martínez accused President Javier Milei and Security Minister Patricia Bullrich of introducing a ”clear repressive plan” in Argentina.

According to the Santa Fe politician, the police repression endured by deputies from his bloc “is one more link showing the disdain by President Javier Milei for Congress and the separation of powers.”

“There is a repression plan with the goal of establishing a state of emergency in Argentina against its constitutional guaranties,” said Martínez.

 

‘Acts of repression’

In an interview aired Wednesday, Martínez slammed the “acts of repression that were experienced with everyone, but mainly with the deputies.”

“What happened was one more step in the escalating confrontation between the President of the Nation and the Argentine Congress,” he offered.

He accused the President and security minister of “creating the conditions for the establishment [and] declaration of a state of emergency in Argentina that goes against constitutional guarantees.”

“The conditions are in place to be able to exercise the right to protest and demonstrate, it is always done peacefully, but that is lost when Patricia Bullrich is in charge, because she puts an absolutely disproportionate amount of police on the streets, which generates the opposite effect to any attempt at pacification,” he railed.

Bullrich hit back at the allegations, branding the Peronist deputies “hypocrites” and accusing them of “endorsing violence.”

"The violent people who wanted to impose themselves on the law now have the hypocrisy to make a complaint," said Bullrich in a post on social media.

 

'Infiltrators'

Martínez also suggested this week that the lack of footage shared or prosecution of the “infiltrators who burned cars” was suspicious. 

Buenos Aires City Mayor “Jorge Macri has to provide the videos of the people who burned the Cadena 3 mobile [vehicle], he does not provide images or videos of all those who at some point were identified as strangers to the demonstration taking place.”

Martínez has denounced the government before the courts, while sending copies of his accusations to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and the United Nations.

The CELS human rights group added its voice to the criticism this week.

"This government proposes, from the outset, a situation of violence in the face of protest situations. It does so by setting up an operation and via the way in which they act against people who are in the street, demonstrating," said CELS director Paula Litvachky.

The rights group said Servini’s release order “confirms the arrests of those who protested were carried out at random and accused prosecutor Carlos Stornelli of “inventing an attempted coup d’état to suit the interests of the government.”

"Beyond the relief at these releases, cases are still open and the damage already done is immense: for those who were in prison, for their loved ones and also for the threat posed to anyone who wants to express their criticism of the government," the organisation warned.


– TIMES/NA/PERFIL

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