Controversial social leader Milagro Sala faced her court in the first trial against her today. The case that starts the polarizing community leader’s long legal battle centers on Sala being accused of having instigated a violent protest against, among other people, the now governor of the Jujuy Province, Gerardo Morales. The province’s two most important political leaders have had beef with each other for decades.
It’s fair to clarify that this is not the reason the leader of the Tupac Amaru organization has placed in custody since January of this year. She was initially sent to the Alto Comedero prison for breaking Jujuy’s misdemeanor code by camping in a square in protest against certain policies instituted by Governor Morales when taking office last December.
However, although the decision regarding these charges was lifted in April, she was kept behind bars due to fraud and extortion charges that were later pressed against her. Neither of these charges have been proven or confirmed by a court of law to date.
Several international organizations such as the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Organization of American States (OAS) have publicly requested Sala be released as the charges against her have not been decided in court yet. Jujuy’s judicial system argues that she is in prison because there’s a probable chance she will interfere with the investigation against her. Her supporters reject this, with many feeling that she is being held in custody because of ideological differences with the governor. Supporters are not against the investigation, but the leaders detention to be both arbitrary and unfounded. The UN’s working group has accepted an invitation from the Argentine government to visit the country and assess the situation.
In today’s trial however, the acting tribunal has to determine whether or not to convict Sala for on charges of “threatening and aggravating damage.” During the hearing she denied having organized the protest against Morales and claimed the trial was a way the governor of persecuting her personally saying “I apologize to Morales for being black and indigenous,” with audible irony.
Sala wasn’t present in the protest, but was indicted anyway after the prosecutor concluded there was enough evidence to indicate that she instigated it. Those who pressed charges provided videos in which the social leader can allegedly be heard encouraging attacks against Morales.
“Morales is upset because I’m a Peronist and started getting involved in politics with Néstor and Cristina [Kirchner]… My only goal was to give dignity to my fellow companions. No one gave us anything for free,” she said.
Morales didn’t attend the hearing. Instead, he scheduled a ceremony to hand over deeds of government-built houses to families from vulnerable sectors, something that the Tupac Amaru was in charge of doing during the Kirchner administration. One of Morales’s accusations against Sala is that the cooperative she ran would withhold the deeds from the families as a way of extorting them later, Clarín reports.
And if this symbolism wasn’t clear enough, the ceremony will take in a place called “Alto Comedero,” same as the prison Sala’s currently in.
On December 21st both Sala, and the Tupac Amaru as an organization, will face another trial, this time for last year’s protests against Morales. The trial for the charges she is custody over does not have a start date. In fact, she hasn’t been indicted yet.