SANTIAGO (Reuters) – A Chilean policeman appeared in court on Saturday on a charge of grievous bodily harm after a 20-year-old protester was allegedly run over by an armored police vehicle during a protest in the capital on Friday evening.
The policeman, whose name has not yet been officially confirmed, was released on bail pending further investigation, the regional prosecutor said in a press statement.
The injured man was named by local media as Oscar Ignacio Pérez Cortéz. He is being treated in a private hospital for a suspected fractured pelvis, local newspaper El Mercurio reported.
Footage recorded by local television stations showed two police riot vehicles surrounded by a large crowd of protesters in Santiago’s Plaza Italia, a central rallying point in recent weeks, before the incident took place at around 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
General Enrique Monrás, a Santiago police spokesman, said police had been confronted by a crowd of around 1,500 people throwing stones, bottles of paint and Molotov cocktails, which left two police officers injured and a police motorbike thrown in the Mapocho River.
The protest followed a period of relative calm this week after more than two months of fierce demonstrations against the government of President Sebastian Pinera over endemic inequality in the southern Latin nation, which have left at least 26 people dead and thousands more injured and arrested.}
Friday´s incident sparked a furious reaction from Chilean opposition parties, who called for the resignation of the police chief and the Santiago superintendent, Felipe Guevara, who last week said unauthorized demonstrations would be met with “zero tolerance.”
Chile´s Socialist Party said in a statement that Guevara´s “imprudent” statements had prompted a police act of “extreme and unacceptable” violence.
The head of Chile´s Institute for Human Rights visited Cortez in hospital, and Pablo Rivera, its legal coordinator, said it would lay a charge of attempted homicide.
Jose Miguel Vivanco, the Americans director for Human Rights Watch, which compiled a report on the Chilean protests that raised concerns about large-scale rights violations by police, described the incident as one of “extreme brutality.”
“Those responsible and their commanders must be dismissed and penalized,” he tweeted. “If that does not happen and soon, the abuses will continue.”
General Monrás said police themselves reported the incident to prosecutors immediately and would conduct an internal investigation.
Santiago superintendent Guevara said the city authorities would also investigate.
“As a government and especially as superintendent, I deeply regret what happened and send our best wishes to him and his family,” he said on Twitter.
Reporting by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Dan Grebler and Leslie Adler