SANTIAGO – At least 25 people were arrested on Tuesday before the first court appearance of 15 suspects in a series of bombings in Santiago and other cities in Chile, police said.
The protesters, the majority of them fellow anarchists, were arrested for damaging public property and disturbing the peace.
Fourteen of the suspected anarchists appearing at the hearing were arrested last weekend in operations in Santiago and Valparaiso that included searches of squatter settlements in the capital and residences. The 15th defendant is an anarchist already serving prison time for previous offenses.
The courthouse in Santiago was surrounded early in the day by three security rings manned by about 150 police officers equipped with water cannons and tear gas. The security perimeter was extended to a nearby Metro station, where a checkpoint was set up to check the identification of people using the facility.
The tight security for the hearing, allowing only one relative of each of the suspects to be present, as well as only one reporter from each news outlet, caused a delay of more than one hour in the start of the proceedings.
Special prosecutor Alejandro Peña, who is in charge of the case, ordered last Saturday’s operations after investigating the attacks for several months.
Physical evidence, such as traces of explosives on the skin and clothing of some of the defendants, links the suspects to the bombings, prosecutor Marcos Emilfort, who is working with Peña, said Tuesday.
Rodolfo Retamales and Pablo Morales, two former members of the leftist Grupo Lautaro that fought the 1973-1990 military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, are among the suspects in the case. Retamales and Morales spent more than 12 years in prison for crimes committed after the restoration of democracy. The press has identified the two men as the masterminds behind the series of bombings that killed one person, an anarchist who was carrying a bomb on a bicycle in Santiago last year. The bombings targeted banks, the offices of foreign companies, embassies, churches and police stations in Santiago and other cities. Retamales’s lawyer, Alberto Espinoza, criticized the extensive media coverage of his client, saying that it “weakens the right to a defense a lot.” EFE