Photo via Alerta Online

Victory Front Deputy Maira Mendoza was attacked yesterday by Jujuy police as she tried to get into the courthouse where the last session of the trial against social leader Milagro Sala — accused of allegedly conducting a violent protest against now Provincial Governor Gerardo Morales in 2009 — was taking place.

Mendoza was part of a delegation made up of roughly 30 national and provincial deputies and human rights leaders — fellow FpV deputies Eduardo “Wado” De Pedro, Carlos Tomada, Mariano Recalde and Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel among them — who made their way to Jujuy to show their support for Sala, in prison since January but for an unrelated, but controversial, case.

Things started to go south when the delegation tried to get into the courthouse despite being blocked access by the Jujuy provincial government. Police reacted violently to the public officials’ insistence to be granted access, and Mendoza was one of the people most affected by the violent response. The pictures speak for themselves.

In an interview with Radio Del Plata hours after the incident, Mendoza recounted her version of what happened.

“We waited an hour and a half to get in [to the courthouse]. They weren’t giving us any answers when we asked if we could get in. At one point, they opened the gates to let in a prosecutor with his car. Then we got close and ended up right in front of the police, requesting that they let us in,” she began.

Mendoza went on to say that “the first event that created tension happened when a police officer violently groped a fellow activist. Amid that tension, they grabbed official Martín Rodríguez Alberti by the hair and pulled him out.”

She continued: “When they took Martín out, they started hitting him. That’s when I asked them to stop, telling them that I’m a national deputy, [and] that we want to see Milagro. Then they grabbed me by the neck, I couldn’t breathe. I fell to the ground and was hit.”

“It was a terrible and terrifying situation, which in a way is what they wanted to show. There’s no rule of law in the Jujuy Province, there’s an alteration to democratic order. Governor Morales controls the Justice system, the Legislature and the Executive branch. It’s a democracy mixed with a dictatorship,” she finished.

Shortly after the events, former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner took to Twitter to criticize the police response. “This is something more than repression. It’s the fear of the woman without fear,” she tweeted, quoting a famous phrase by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano.

At the same time Mendoza was being attacked, Horacio Pietragalla, former FpV Deputy and current Human Rights Secretary for the Santa Cruz Province, could be seen hitting a policeman in the face.

“I had the order to block the fence when it was taken down so they wouldn’t continue getting into a place they weren’t allowed to be in. We didn’t know who they were, they started shoving and attacking,” the officer hit by Pietragalla told press later.

While the events took place outside, the last hearing in the trial against Sala went ahead without interruption. However, the court didn’t read the final sentence after running out of time and will announce its verdict next Wednesday.

It’s important to clarify that this is not the reason the leader of the Tupac Amaru organization has been 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.

Despite the decision regarding these charges being 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.