Colombia’s Justice Ministry said Thursday that one of the country’s most prominent indigenous leaders will serve his sentence for illegally retaining a military official in a detention center inside an indigenous reserve.
Feliciano Valencia was sentenced to 18 years in prison in September after he was accused by the Prosecutor General’s Office of kidnapping and physically abusing a corporal in Colombia’s military, who was accused of spying on an indigenous protest in 2008.
According to reports, the military member was detained and flogged under indigenous legislation after locals suspected that he had infiltrated the protest.
“The evidence collected by the prosecution has established the indigenous leader as responsible in the case. Subjects with covered faces holding batons and machetes, accosted the third corporal of the army, Jairo Danilo Chaparral Santiago, and forced him in to a van. In the presence of 400 indigenous people, they beat him and then moved him to a town council building where he was put in a guarded cage, tied up and blindfolded,” said the Prosecutor General.
According to the defense, the soldier had entered the community with the intention of “dirtying the protest and associating the movement with the FARC” rebel group.
Since the arrest, indigenous communities and international human rights organizations have been up in arms over what they see as an unlawful conviction.
Originally sentenced to life behind normal prison bars, Valencia will now be returned to his province of Cauca where he will fill out his sentence in an ancient setting, surrounded by his community.
The transfer has come about as a result of the Superior Tribunal of Popayan accepting the indigenous community’s appeal.
Valencia will reportedly first be sent to the San Isidoro prison in Cauca to perform various protocols and then to the town of Santander de Quilichao in Cauca.
The intention of this move by the State is to acknowledge the autonomy of indigenous communities.