Latin America & Caribbean

Chile Mapuche cleared of deadly Araucania arson attack

Thousands of ethnic Mapuches, Chile's largest indigenous group march in support of the Mapuche resistance in Santiago on October 9, 2017 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Thousands of ethnic Mapuche marched in the Chilean capital, Santiago in October in support of their nation's resistance against the state

A court in Chile has absolved 11 members of the Mapuche indigenous community accused of an arson attack that killed a landowner and his wife in 2013 in the southern Araucania region.

The judges said there was insufficient evidence.

The landowner, Bernard Luchsinger and his wife, Vivianne McKay had been involved in a land dispute with the Mapuche.

Tensions between the Mapuche and the state have increased in recent years.

Armed groups have been burning houses, churches, trucks and forest plantations with increasing frequency.

Eyewitnesses had said that a group of masked men attacked the house of Mr Luchsinger and his wife. Their charred bodies were later identified by relatives.

Last month eight Mapuche appeared in court in the southern city of Temucho after they were arrested on suspicion of taking part in arson attacks.

Police say they were involved in the burning of more than 50 trucks in two separate attacks on local companies in August.

A radical Mapuche group claimed responsibility and called for the release from jail of Mapuche prisoners who are being held under a controversial terrorism law.

About 600,000 Mapuche live in Chile.

Relations have been hostile since the Chilean army invaded their disputed homeland in a brutal campaign in the 1800s.

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