A national peace prize winner and indigenous leader of a reserve in southern Colombia was arrested for kidnapping an army officer in 2008, striking tensions between indigenous and the state.
Feliciano Valencia was arrested on Tuesday by the The Technical Body of Investigation (CTI) branch of the Prosecutor General’s Office for kidnapping and physically abusing Jairo Danilo Chaparral Santiago a corporal in Colombia’s military, during an indigenous protest in 2008.
Valencia was recently sentenced to 18 years in prison by the Superior Tribunal of Popayan, Cauca.
“The evidence collected by the prosecution has established the indigenous leader as responsible for 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.
The leader’s arrest has allegedly unsettled members of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN), a protest group in the province where Valencia is appreciated as an important social leader.
“This is another set up by the state,” a spokesperson from the indigenous authorities of the province told El Tiempo newspaper on Wednesday, demanding clear answers for why Valencia had been arrested.
According to reports, the military member was detained and punished under indigenous legislation after locals suspected that he had infiltrated the protest.
In 2010 Valencia’s involvement in the 2008 kidnapping was flagged, but subsequently not pursued.
During Alvaro Uribe‘s presidency, the esteemed indigenous leader was detained by the now defunct Administrative Department of Security (DAS), after the Cauca Piendamo Court ordered his arrest in February.
The Nasa and Guambiano indigenous communities within the department allegedly stood in the leaders’ defense, and the Cauca judge dropped the case.
In March 2015, he was charged for being involved in a car accident in the rural area of Santander de Quilichao and being under the influence of alcohol.
According to local media, Valencia was awarded the peace prize in 2000 for being an example of passive resistance to the armed conflict that began in 1964.