Lawyer for Ecuador police warns of 'witch hunt'

AP News
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Posted: Oct 08, 2010 3:24 PM
Lawyer for Ecuador police warns of 'witch hunt'

A lawyer for Ecuadorean police officers under investigation for last week's uprising that led to five deaths said Friday that his clients are being swept up in a "witch hunt."

Attorney Patricio Armijos, who is representing more than 50 agents, said the legal process is plagued with imprecisions and based on suspicions. Video evidence purporting to show the officers during the revolt, he said, is dark and unclear.

"Some videos exist, but there is no certainty as to who is acting peacefully and who is not," Armijos told Ecuavisa television. "It's outrageous: Three to six years for those who were carrying weapons, and one to three for those who did not."

He called for the videos to be examined by forensic experts before they can be submitted as evidence, and for his clients to be given due process under the law.

Alexis Mera, legal secretary for President Rafael Correa's office, said only some suspects have been ordered into preventive custody and denied the government is persecuting police for political reasons.

"We do not have a desire for revenge," Mera said, "but rather, a desire that the law simply be carried out and that peace return to the barracks."

On Thursday, a police colonel, 12 officers and a retired army major were ordered detained for up to 90 days in connection with the Sept. 30 revolt against a new law that would strip police of promotion bonuses. Correa has called it an attempted coup.

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Authorities plan to question some 220 agents suspected of being in a crowd where Correa was roughed up when he came to talk to them about their grievances.

The president was taken to a nearby police hospital for treatment, then trapped inside for hours by police gathered outside.

He was finally rescued when army commandos firing assault rifles and concussion grenades stormed into the facility and hustled him away.