Political Prisoners

On this page we are going to expose a few cases of political prisoners in Chile. There are of course much more citizens in prison or in home arrest. Nevertheless, there are prisoners that don’t want to make public their name, photo and details of their case for fear of possible repercussions or social stigmatization.

JOSÉ IGNACIO DURÁN SANHUEZA (19 YEARS OLD)

José Ignacio is an aviation mechanics graduate student. Since he was a child he has wanted to “work with machines that fly; flying has always been his dream” (Osvaldo Durán, José Ignacio’s father). On the day of his arrest, he was only 3 weeks away from finishing his studies and starting his internship. Despite being in prison, José Ignacio took his final exam (through his lawyer) to finish his career, obtaining the highest grade of his class.

He was arrested at his home in the early morning of October 15, 2020 after a violent raid in Lo Hermida neighbourhood. The Prosecutor’s Office accused him of the crimes of illicit association, installation of barricades, unjustified shooting and the throwing of incendiary devices at the ‘Carabineros’ police station in Peñalolén, a commune of Santiago. He was formalized and placed in preventive detention in the Santiago 1 Prison for the duration of the investigation. There is no evidence against José Ignacio, nor has he any previous detentions or convictions that justify him being in preventive detention. The circumstantial evidence against him is based on the story of an infiltrated policeman, who was recognized by the neighbours after participating in a reality tv show on channel 13 television. The presence of a police officer in Lo Hermida who brought gasoline and bottles to incite neighbour’s to participate in disorders and acts of vandalism against Carabineros, was investigated and published by the Journalistic Investigation Center, CIPER. However, despite all these precedents, the National Prosecutor’s Office requests the application of the State Internal Security Law against José Ignacio, which aggravates the charges and possible convictions he could receive.
José Ignacio Durán is currently in preventive detention, awaiting the conclusion of the investigation. Since March 22, he has been on a Hunger Strike, along with other political prisoners, who demand truth, justice and freedom.

FELIPE SANTANA TORRES (20 YEARS OLD)

Felipe is a young furniture maker with a mild cognitive disability who was sentenced to 7 years and one day in prison for allegedly burning a bench on November 14, 2019.

The prosecutor accused him of having entered the Puerto Montt cathedral together with a group of people to steal a wooden bench that was in the church in order to bring it to the public highway and carry out an incendiary barricade. For this reason he was charged with the crimes of damage to national property for public use, theft and frustrated fire in an inhabited property. The court also considered that it was een aggravating fact that theses “crimes” occured during a social outbreak and in a place of religious worship. The evidence presented by the prosecution are videos obtained from social networks and security cameras, but in none of the videos you can see Felipe activating some type of accelerator to burn the bank.

Like so many other young citizens, Felipe Santana Torres, had been in preventive detention for more than a year, despite not having a criminal record, before hearing his conviction. He was convicted in an abbreviated trial and deceived by his lawyer, who made him sign a guilty statement assuring that with that he would be released, while the 7-year sentence had previously been negotiated with the prosecutor. On Monday, February 15, the court rejected his appeal for annulment of his trial.

Felipe claimed that when he was arrested and taken to the Puerto Montt Second Police Station, he was threatened by the police with a beating, if he did not sign a series of papers. His mother, Johanna Torres, also says that the police went to his house after the arrest and entered without a court order to take photos of his room and his bathroom.

FRANCISCO ANDRÉS HERNÁNDEZ RIQUELME (21 YEARS OLD)

Francisco is a young man with no criminal record who loves to sport. He had to leave his studies after his mother suffered an accident in the public transport and since that moment he has been the economic support of his family.

Francisco Hernández was arrested on December 10, 2019 in the surroundings of Plaza Dignidad. Infiltrated police officers that were at the protests, claimed that they had persistently recorded a hooded man (who is supposed to be Francisco), throwing about five Molotov cocktails at the police that day. At the end of the protest and while Francisco was leaving, he was arrested in the streets of Curicó with Portugal. The Prosecutor’s Office, headed by Álvaro Pérez, requested 20 years in prison: 4 years for the manufacture and launch of each of the alleged five “Molotov cocktails” (a breakable glass bottle containing a flammable substance such as petrol (gasoline) or alcohol that is used as an incendiary weapon).

The examinations of the experts regarding flammable liquids on Francisco’s hands were negative. Normally when someone have manipulated a “Molotov cocktail” they should have flammable liquid residues on there hands. The Prosecutor’s Office also presented white and blue gloves as evidence, but the person throwing the flammable device is seen wearing black gloves and his face not well appreciated in de video. Francisco has both hands and arms tattooed, but when you see the arms and hands of the person who throws the flammable devices in the video, they are clean.

During his detention at the 33rd Police Station in Ñuñoa, Francisco was beaten. His mother says that when they went to see him, he had all his hands were injured and his nose was broken. He was also forced to sign a document that accuses him of the crimes that he is accused of, which the lack evidence mentioned above.

On September 2, 2020, the Third Oral Criminal Court of Santiago sentenced Francisco Andrés Hernández Riquelme to five years and one day in jail.

NELSON ANDRÉS SANHUEZA AGUILERA (29 YEARS OLD)

Accused of disorders and charged of setting fire to car sales shop Coseche on November 5, 2019. He was arrested on the night of November 12, 2019 in Curicó by two plainclothes policemen infiltrated in a protest. His house was subsequently raided without a warrant.

After a year and 4 months in preventive detention, Nelson was sentenced on Wednesday, March 10, as the author of fire at Coseche care sales shop by Judge Patricio Navarro. However, at the reading of the sentence, he was granted the benefit of intensive probation due to his previous irreproachable conduct and the amount of time he already spent in jail.