Santiago, Sep 1 (EFE).- A former police captain was found guilty Thursday of firing a tear-gas canister at Sen. Fabiola Campillai during a street protest in 2019.
Patricio Maturana, who was dismissed from the Carabineros – Chile’s militarized national police – following the incident, used the tear-gas grenade not “to disperse or dissuade the crowd, but to inflict harm,” Judge Marcela Nilo said.
The officer acted contrary to the Carabineros’ own protocols and abused his position, Nilo said.
Campillai lost her vision, taste and sense of smell after being struck in the face by the canister in the Santiago neighborhood of San Bernardo while on her way to work on Nov. 26, 2019.
Acknowledging Maturana’s unblemished service record prior to the events in San Bernardo, the court found that his actions were unjustified, as the protesters were not blocking traffic or endangering others.
Maturana was charged in August 2020, but the trial did not begin until May of this year. His sentencing is set for Oct. 10 and prosecutors are seeking a penalty of 12 years in prison.
Campillai, one of at least 460 people who suffered serious eye injuries due to the actions of police in putting down the wave of mass protests that erupted in October 2019, became a prominent advocate of human rights.
Activism led her to politics and in November 2021, she defeated several veteran officeholders backed by traditional parties to win a seat in the Senate as an independent.
“This struggle will be over when each one of our comrades has justice,” Campillai said Thursday after the verdict. “Twelve years are nothing, because I will be blind for the rest of my lift. His being in prison won’t give me back my eyes.”
Last month, the senator filed suit against the government seeking 2 billion pesos ($2.2 million) in damages for her injuries, which have required her to undergo multiple facial-reconstruction surgeries.
What began as a protest against a small metro fare hike turned into a movement that brought 1.2 million people – more than 5 percent of the Chilean population – into the heart of Santiago on Oct. 25, 2019.
Thirty-four people died and thousands more were injured in the response of the security forces to the largest mobilizations Chile has witnessed since the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Some 2,000 criminal complaints have been lodged against the Carabineros in connection with the events of late 2019.
The demand for a more equitable economic model in a country where the richest 1 percent control more than a quarter of national wealth fueled calls for a new constitution to replace the one Pinochet imposed in 1980, which laid the basis for privatization of health care, water, education and pensions.
Chileans voted overwhelmingly in October 2020 to convene a constitutional convention and will head to the polls on Sunday for a referendum on the proposed new charter. EFE mfm/dr