Santiago (Chile): Chilean police arrested 19 people after clashing with a group of Mapuche Indians outside a court in a southern region that has been hit by a string of arson attacks.
Police said the clashes began at 11:20 am Local time yesterday when about a dozen people hurled rocks at police cars outside the court.
Fernando Millacheo, a member of the Mapuche indigenous community, was to appear there for a hearing on robbery, arson and attempted murder charges.
Millacheo is accused of armed robbery and attempted murder. But he denies any wrongdoing and is on a 51-day hunger strike to protest his arrest.
"Nine women and 11 men were arrested at the clashes. A 12-year old minor who was held with the group has been returned to his parents," Capt. Ximena Isabel Valle Pereira, a spokeswoman for the local police department told the Associated Press.
Three policemen and five members of the Mapuche group were treated for minor injuries, Valle Pereira said.
Riot police continued to stand guard in the late afternoon outside the court in Collipulli, a city in the Araucania region that Chile`s largest indigenous group calls its usurped ancestral land.
The Mapuche, which means "people of the land" in their native Mapudungun language, resisted the Spanish conquest for 300 years and their desire for autonomy remains as strong.
Many of the 1,000,000 Mapuche who survive among Chile`s 16.5 million people, still live in Araucania and most live in poverty. A radical faction of the Mapuche have occupied and burned forestry farms and lumber trucks to demand the return of ancestral territories.
Police have also been accused of violent abuses including storming into Mapuche homes and injuring women and children by shooting rubber bullets and tear gas during demonstrations.