Conviction requires Mapuche sympathizer to leave country despite all evidence pointing to political set-up
By Hedoi Etxarte
On December 31, 2009, Basque writer/translator Asel Luzarraga was arrested in Chile at his home in Padre de Las Casas. At the time, he was accused of four attacks carried out between December 2008 and December 2009. From the beginning, Luzarraga denied any connection to the attacks. In fact, his passport showed that he was out of the country on the dates of two of the attacks. Nevertheless, Judge Alejandra García sentenced him to preventive detention for the duration of the investigation.
Then the charges were modified: The Prosecutor’s office stopped investigating Luzarraga as the perpetrator and instead charged him with possession of explosive material. Found in his home—without a single fingerprint—were an empty fire extinguisher, less than ten grams of black powder, a fuse, and adhesive tape. Luzarraga spent forty-two days in preventive detention and was under house arrest until his sentencing at trial on September 7. The following day, according to regional newspaper El Austral, Cautín governor Miguel Mellado said that he would be appealing “to the International Police to take this character and drop him off at the airport so he can leave the country.” Based on his statement, it’s clear that Luzarraga’s prison sentence was symbolic and that the ultimate objective was to deny the renewal of his residence permit.
Luzarraga will have to leave Chile by September 22, fifteen days after sentencing. In determining the sentence, the judges considered the chemical evidence submitted on behalf of the defense by Analab and Temuco Catholic University to be insufficient.
Police also confirmed the detection of nitrate ions at Luzarraga’s home. Their evidence indicated the presence of nitrate ions in the city water supply, especially in the water and shampoo at Luzarraga’s home. According to a statement made by Luzarraga’s attorney Jaime Madariaga to the Autonomous University of Chile television station, that “explains why they found nitrate ions on his back.” In the same statement to the media, Madariaga added that the data invalidated what “the Attorney General’s office had made the public believe.” The Prosecutor’s office was also unable to explain the absence of fingerprints on the material seized from Luzarraga’s home.
El Austral took the defense attorney’s statement after sentencing: “It’s hard to feel satisfied when you know an innocent man has been convicted, but he certainly won’t have to go to prison, and that’s without doubt a relief to us.” He added: “As a society we are even weaker, because any one of us can be the victim of someone who leaves a bag containing drugs or a fire extinguisher at our house, and then be convicted regardless of the absence of any fingerprints, e-mail, or anything.”
In the Basque newspaper Deia, Luzarraga maintained his certitude that neither he, his girlfriend, nor anyone who knows them could have left behind the empty fire extinguisher, fuses, and black powder that were found at his home. He reiterated how strange it was that there were no fingerprints and that the supermarket bag containing everything was missing. The writer had no hesitation in saying that it was all a set-up designed to persecute him politically.
From Asel Luzarraga Askatu!:
February 10, 2010
During this morning’s hearing in Temuco, the judge ordered house arrest for Asel until the day of the trial. Therefore, although he is not free, our friend can spend the days with his girlfriend, friends, or family, and we hope that all of us will be able to speak to him directly.
All our work has helped get Asel out of prison, and we are closer to his freedom all the time!
All the members of the Askel campaign send a strong embrace to you and your family!
More to come as this story develops . . .
January 22, 2010
Firstly, we’re grateful for the concern, comradeship, affection, and extent of support for Asel. As you already know, he is currently imprisoned in Temuco, Chile on charges of illegal weapons trafficking, which flatly contradicts the ethical heart of our comrade, since he is a conscientious objector due to his refusal to learn how to use weapons.
As friends of his and as human beings, it seems aberrant to us that someone (we still don’t know who) is attempting to blame Asel for this act, given that the first indictment phase focused on the explosion of four bombs at various points in the city, three of which were impossible for Asel to carry out since he was in Euskal Herria on those dates. As the facts didn’t gel with the events, Asel’s home was raided without any explanation, and they confiscated what they consider evidence: a fire extinguisher, black powder, buckshot, and fuses for the “supposed” production of bombs. At no time has this evidence―which never was in our comrade’s home anyway―been submitted to the public or the court via either photos or video (lately, this has been the trend in the majority of cases).
It looks to us like Asel is being criminalized for being Basque, for his anarchist ideas, for his constant interest in social matters, and for sympathizing with the Mapuche people, who have been systematically oppressed and discriminated against by the Chilean state.
Criminalization for being a foreigner (stigmatization for being Basque)
Criminalization of ideas
Criminalization for solidarity with the Mapuche people
The following description is a short, informative summary of the context in which events are unfolding:
Asel is currently in prison. His health is good and his mood changes nuance by the minute, but he is always smiling with the strength and integrity that distinguish him. As he has said, he won’t let them condemn him for identifying with “one of the most marvelous ideas in the world, which is all about freedom and mutual respect.” More clearly than ever, Asel is taking a fighting stance against the criminalization of conscious anarchism in the hope that his situation clears up and he can resume his activities and interests, as he has always done. The project he was working on consists of establishing of a studio for shared learning via a diverse, horizontal, anarchist educational approach. At the same time, he wants to continue his writing, because as you should know, he was a dedicated novelist before being imprisoned.
In the future, you’ll receive information more fluidly. For the moment, we’re grateful for all the counterinformation on Asel’s behalf renouncing both his criminalization and the deprivation of his liberty.
Down with prisons!!!
Every prisoner is a political prisoner
– Asel’s Friends
January 7, 2010
This morning, district attorney Sergio Moya (readers, keep him in mind) formalized charges against our Basque compa for the crime of possession of explosive material, plus an infraction of the arms control law. He therefore requested that Asel remains in prison, and his request was granted by public safety judge Alejandra García. In this way, our compa is being considered a “menace to society” thanks to the explosives planted in his house by the police.
Julio Landaeta, lawyer for the accused, indicated that there is no concrete record that can establish that his client was carrying out actions related to the fabrication of explosives. To that effect, he pointed out: “It would have to be proven irrefutably that my client was undertaking some specific action with explosives and that he had some target. No one has said anything like that.” As a way of proving the innocence of his client, Landaeta clarified that on the date of the pharmacy bombing (December 7, 2009), Asel Luzarraga was out of the country.
Everything is falling into place for a government desperate to punish whomever it can. To stifle the Mapuche struggle, it blamed international networks, thereby giving things more “color” and also connecting the Mapuche to the bombings in Santiago. Clearly, the state/capital apparatus is trying to create a bombings-Mapuche link, and from there build up a whole framework that we know will include squats, “ex-subversives,” and whatever it wants.
To sum up, the government is extending Asel’s detention for another three months in order to continue fabricating evidence and thus leave that old bag [Undersecretary of the Interior Patricio] Rosende in a non-contemptible position, given his announced “monitoring” of the terrible foreigners who came to Chile to “infiltrate” movements.
The family of Asel’s Chilean girlfriend denies that he could be responsible for any terrorist attacks. Just last week, they announced legal action against the police for what they insist was an abusive invasion of the building in Padre Las Casas.
January 6, 2010
Well, first of all I want to introduce myself: I am Vane, Asel’s girlfriend, and he has asked me to write this e-mail. I imagine you’ve already been informed about what happened, and if that’s not the case, then I can tell you that they arrested Asel on December 31 as a suspect in terrorist attacks.
The truth is I don’t know where to begin. I will tell you my version. On December 30, I went to work for my father, as usual. I left at approximately 11 a.m. (I slept at Asel’s house, which I’ve been doing for a long time now). I was working with my father, and I kept in touch with my boyfriend by phone throughout the day. My younger brother and a friend of his went to Asel’s house in the afternoon to mow his lawn. When I finished work, Asel came to see me at my parents’ house, and from there we went back to his house together. I went to bed, very tired, and he stayed up watching television. In a little while, he laid down next to me, and that night we slept together, the night before December 31 . . .
On the 31st, I was with him all morning. While he was writing, I did my own thing, and at around 1 p.m. I went to my parents’ house to help prepare for New Year’s Eve. Then I went downtown to buy some things, and when I got back home I saw that it was surrounded by Carabineros patrols. I got very scared, imagining there was an accident, and I ran into the house. They had turned my room upside down, so I asked: “What happened?” They didn’t want to give me any information, but they finally told me that my boyfriend Asel Luzarraga was being accused of planting explosive devices. In addition to all this, they had entered my parents’ house without a written order. Even if the district attorney did come around to “supposedly” give a verbal order to search, it still left my mother in bad shape. She didn’t know what to do. She was in a state of shock.
Later on, I went to the third precinct in Padre Las Casas, where they were holding Asel. I wasn’t able to see him until 8 p.m. At first they didn’t want anyone to see him, but I insisted and they let me spend less than 15 minutes with him. He told me that the Carabineros arrived at his house with their guns drawn and their helmets on, accompanied by the press, of course. He was very frightened and asked what was happening outside. They told him he should open up if he didn’t want to get hurt. They searched the entire house. When Asel asked them why they were there, one of the Carabineros told him to stop playing dumb since he knew perfectly well what was going on. Asel was astonished. He told them that he had no idea and asked them to please tell him. They didn’t listen. Later they became adamant and told him that they had found weapons and black powder, which is not true, because as a witness I can confirm that my boyfriend didn’t have anything they mentioned.
They took our laptop, Asel’s camera, his leather jacket, all his books, a backpack, even the kitchen garbage can (I confirmed this). They told him that he would have to sign a document listing the things they took. This was NEVER done. Asel signed nothing because they never showed him any form.
He spent New Year’s Eve in custody, and during a hearing at 11 a.m. on January 1, they extended his detention for five days so they could investigate the case.
I swear that Asel spent the night of December 30 at home with me, and that there was no explosive material anywhere, much less a fire extinguisher, which would have been easy to spot. Ever since he came to Temuco, not a single day has passed without us seeing each other, except for when he traveled to Euskal Herria, but there are flight records that would establish the time and date of his arrival at the airport in Chile. The day Asel went away, I left for Santiago, and at the bus station there I met the aunt of a cousin of mine named Soledad Perón. I spent the night at her house and came back the following day.
I’m devastated. I just found out that Asel is news in Spain. I CAN’T believe it. A sham like this has to be stopped. My boyfriend didn’t have anything at home. It’s all a set-up!
Please help us. Help Asel. He hasn’t done any of the things they are accusing him of!!!!
January 1, 2010
The 38-year-old Basque is under arrest in the southern Chilean city of Temuco for his alleged connection to an unsuccessful bombing at the Justice Ministry for the La Araucanía region on Thursday.
A court of public safety in the southern Chilean city of Temuco ordered preventative detention today for a 38-year-old Basque arrested on Thursday for his alleged connection to an unsuccessful bombing at the Justice Ministry for the La Araucanía region.
Court sources indicate that the resolution was adopted during a detention hearing in which Judge Omar Mérida invoked the Antiterrorist Law in order to keep the suspect in custody.
According to sources, the Basque’s preventative detention will last until at least January 6.
The accused, Asel Luzarraga, is a novelist and the lead singer of an anarchist punk band. He was arrested during a raid of his home, and police sources say he has lived in Chile since March 2009.
The Basque is suspect number one in the unsuccessful bombing by unknown perpetrators of the Justice Ministry building located at the corner of Calle Bilbao and Calle Vicuña Mackenna on Ñelol hill in Temuco. Prosecutor Sergio Moya is investigating the incident, along with at least four other bombings that have occurred in the region during the course of the year.
Luzarraga, who goes by the pseudonym “Aselluza,” was arrested in his home in the Pulmahue de Padre Las Casas neighborhood on Thursday afternoon, after Carabineros presented him with a search warrant from the Court of Public Safety.
In the suspect’s home, Carabineros also found an empty fire extinguisher, fuses, and powder for the construction of homemade explosive devices similar to the one found on Thursday morning in the front garden of the Justice Ministry. The same parts were used in a similar device that exploded two weeks ago at an Ahumada pharmacy branch located in a residential area between Avenida Alemania and Avenida San Martín in the regional capital.
Also, in December of last year, a bomb made out of the same materials damaged the door and windows of the Public Prison Advocate’s building.
Luzarraga has degrees in business studies and Basque philosophy, and he has published four novels in Euskara: “The Convex Mirrors,” “Karonte,” “The Charm of Disguise,” and “The Honeycomb.”
For several years, he worked as a high school teacher in his country. He was a member of the board of directors of the Basque Writers’ Association. Outside his literary activity, he was the lead singer for the band Punkamine, and he spread anarchist ideas through his articles and his blog.
Luzarraga had recently participated in protests demanding the release of Mapuche activist Juana Calfunao, who was sentenced and is facing other charges for property occupations and attacks on the authorities. In November 2007, Calfunao struck, spat, and cursed at two prosecutors during her hearing on charges of public disorder. In 1998, she headbutted Rodrigo González, the former head of CONADI (National Indigenous Development Corporation).
December 31, 2009
Rosende explained that the device was “homemade”: “Now some anarchist group will appear” to claim the act, he said.
Temuco Chief Prosecutor Sergio Moya specified that the bomb found hours ago in the front garden of that city’s Justice Ministry building is characteristically similar to three others that exploded in Temuco during the year, as well as those recently placed in Santiago and claimed by anarchist groups.
He said the explosive device was made out of a one-kilo automobile fire extinguisher stuffed with black powder and an industrial detonator.
These facts were confirmed by Interior Undersecretary Patricio Rosende, who pointed out: “It’s the same type of homemade device we’ve seen in the past: a fire extinguisher, powder, a slow-burning fuse.”
Two weeks ago, one such homemade bomb was left behind and detonated at a branch of the Cruz Verde pharmacy in Temuco, and in December of last year another similar device exploded at the entrance to the Public Prison Advocate’s building.
A pro-Mapuche anarchist has been arrested in connection with the current case. Before placing the bomb, he sent an e-mail announcing the attack to a local radio station from an Internet cafe.
These attempts have generally coincided with the arrest of Mapuche activists who attack the property of farmers and logging companies.
Nevertheless, in this instance, no pamphlets, leaflets, or communiqués claiming the act were found at the scene.
Regarding this matter, Rosende said: “We still don’t have information about a claim, but now the imaginary name of some anarchist group against society, against the world, against everything will appear, as they have done this before.”
Additionally, the undersecretary confirmed: “We are going to continue to take all measures at the government’s disposal in order to put an end to these acts, but we expect a bit more action from the prosecutor’s office.”
According to reports, the bomb left behind at the Justice Ministry this morning didn’t explode because of a failure in the mechanism that was supposed to activate the detonator and the powder.
The device was removed from the site by the Carabineros’ GOPE specialists in order to perform the requisite analysis.