By Dave Sherwood
SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile’s government on Thursday said it would ask a judge to preventively detain four ex-police officers involved in the controversial shooting death of an indigenous Mapuche man in the Araucania region of south-central Chile.
The four men are slated to appear in court on Friday, Interior Minister Andres Chadwick told reporters, after a judge on Thursday ordered their arrest on allegations that include obstruction of justice and homicide.
“The investigation is bearing fruit and our government will continue to seek truth to ensure that justice is served in the case of the death of this indigenous man,” Chadwick said.
The four ex-police officers, who were removed from the service after the shooting, could not be immediately reached for comment.
The court date comes nearly two weeks after Camilo Catrillanca, the grandson of a local indigenous leader, was shot in the head during a police operation in a rural community near the town of Ercilla, 480 miles south of Santiago.
The incident sparked fury among opposition parties and human rights activists, triggering widespread protests throughout Chile.
The administration of Chilean centre-right President Sebastian Pinera has increasingly come under political pressure to seek justice in the case.
Chilean police initially said it was unclear who shot Catrillanca because none of the members of the special forces unit that handled the raid had worn body cameras.
But one of the policemen involved was later spotted in media footage wearing a camera. The policeman told investigators he had destroyed the camera’s memory card.
The region’s Mapuche indigenous residents have long accused the state and private companies of taking their ancestral land, draining its natural resources and using undue violence against them. Their communities are among the poorest in Chile.
(Reporting by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Leslie Adler)