Santiago, Oct 11 (EFE).- A Chilean former police captain found guilty last month of firing a tear-gas canister at future-Sen. Fabiola Campillai during a street protest in 2019 was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years and 183 days in prison.
Prosecutors had requested a sentence of 12 years for Patricio Maturana, who was dismissed from the Carabineros – Chile’s militarized national police – following the incident.
Maturana will be given credit for the 774 days in spent behind bars in pre-trial detention, the court 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.
In the verdict handed down Sept. 1, Judge Marcela Nilo said that Maturana used the tear-gas grenade not “to disperse or dissuade the crowd, but to inflict harm.”
Acknowledging the accused’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.
Besides sending the former Carabineros officer to prison, the judge barred him from public employment for the rest of his life and ordered him to pay court costs.
Maturana was charged in August 2020, but the trial did not begin until May of this year.
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.
In August, 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 chief demand of the protesters was for a more equitable economic model in a country where the richest 1 percent control more than a quarter of national wealth. EFE