On 5 May 2018, the Criminal Court of Temuco acquitted Machi Francisca Linconao and eight Mapuche men of all charges against them relating to the 2013 killing of two people. A further three Mapuche men who faced charges in this case, José Peralino Huinca, José Tralcal Coche and Luis Trancal Quidel, were convicted under Chile’s Anti-Terrorist Act. Machi Francisca Linconao always maintained her innocence in the case.
On 4 January 2013, woman human rights defender and spiritual leader of the Mapuche people, Machi Francisca Linconao, was arrested in connection with the murders of Werner Luchsinger and Vivian Mackay. The home in which Luchsinger and Mackay lived had been set alight before dawn on 4 January 2013 by demonstrators commemorating the fifth anniversary of the death of activist Matias Catrileo, a Mapuche who was killed by the Chilean armed forces while participating in a demonstration in 2008. Unable to escape, Luchsinger and Mackay died in the blaze.
Although the Oral Criminal Court of Temuco acquitted Machi Francisca Linconao on 18 October 2017, the Appeals’ Court of Temuco overturned this decision on 29 December 2017, ordering the Criminal Court of Temuco to reopen the case. Machi Francisca Linconao and ten Mapuche men then faced charges of terrorism and murder under Article 474 of Chile’s Criminal Code and Articles 1 and 2.1 of Anti-Terrorist Act No. 18.314 for a second time.
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The Chilean Anti-Terrorist Act has been used to criminalise Mapuches on several occasions in the past. In 2014, in the case of Norin Catriman et al v. the State of Chile, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) condemned the Chilean State for issuing sentences based on anti-terrorism legislation against certain Mapuche people. These sentences were said to have violated the principle of legality and their right to the presumption of innocence. The IACtHR also held that the sentences were based on stereotypes and prejudices, in violation of the principles of equality and non-discrimination.
Front Line Defenders welcomes the acquittal of Machi Francisca Linconao as it believes she was targeted for her peaceful and legitimate human rights work. Nevertheless, Front Line Defenders expresses concern for the ongoing criminalisation of the Mapuche People, which it believes is on account of prevailing stereotypes and deep rooted discrimination against this indigenous group in Chile.