Police evict Rapa Nui clan from Easter Island hotel

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Police on Easter Island have evicted a group of indigenous people who had been occupying the grounds of a luxury hotel since last year.

The group of Rapa Nui say the land on which the hotel was built had been illegally taken from their ancestors generations ago.

They have been protesting for months over what they say are plans to develop Easter Island.

The island, annexed by Chile in 1888, is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Members of the Hitorangi clan have been occupying the Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa since last August.

The hotel was bought from the Chilean government by the Scheiss family, a powerful investment group, in the 1990s, but the Rapa Nui say their ancestors had been cheated into giving up the land years before.

Rodrigo Gomez, a lawyer for the group, said up to 50 armed police had broken into the hotel to remove the final five occupiers. They were arrested and released pending court hearings.

'Good faith'

Mr Gomez said the operation had been "utterly irregular and illegal". It comes two days before the group was due to appear in court to discuss the ownership of the land.

A statement on the Save Rapa Nui website said a judge on the Chilean mainland had twice refused to give police permission to carry out the raid, and that another of the group's lawyers had been prevented from visiting his clients in jail.

An resident of Easter Island with a pellet gun wound to her head (4 Dec 2010) More than 20 Rapa Nui were injured last December as police tried to remove them

His claims could not be immediately confirmed.

Last December, more than 20 people were injured when police armed with pellet guns attempted to clear Rapa Nui protesters from buildings they were occupying.

In January this year, the UN's Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People, James Anaya, expressed concern about the Rapa Nui.

He urged the Chilean government to "make every effort to conduct a dialogue in good faith with representatives of the Rapa Nui people to solve, as soon as possible the real underlying problems that explain the current situation".

Rapa Nui is the official name for the remote Easter Island, which lies more than 3,200km (2,000 miles) off the west coast of Chile.

The tiny island has a population of about 4,000 but is best known for its ancient giant carved stone heads, known as Moais.

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