Chilean court grants bail to activist

Feb. 9, 2013 at 6:30 PM   |   Comments

SANTIAGO, Chile, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- Chile's interior minister denounced a court decision granting bail to a student activist arrested after months on the run.

Emilio Berkhoff, 26, was released Friday, a week after his arrest, The Santiago Times reported. Officials say Berkhoff is an active member of a group defending the indigenous Mapuche people and charges against him include an attack on a police officer during a demonstration and carrying a gun with the serial number filed off.

"We will stick to our duties," Interior Minister Andres Chadwick said. "But at times we feel like it is too heavy a task when courts don't collaborate with us in order to guarantee that defendants don't flee from their trials."

Berkhoff's mother defended her son in a verbal attack aimed at Chadwick.

"My son fills me with pride and helps ease impoverishment of the people that you repress," she said. "Neither prison or bullets can stop these people from fighting."

While the government says many Mapuche allies are terrorists, the courts have been lenient. Last year, the Supreme Court released six people charged with a series of bombings, saying prosecutors did not have enough evidence. Another man who had allegedly placed a homemade bomb was acquitted a month later of the most serious charge, terrorism, and given a home confinement sentence.

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