Peru holding two loggers in murder of four native environmentalists

by Reuters
Friday, 26 September 2014 20:46 GMT

LIMA, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Peru has arrested two loggers suspected of murdering four indigenous environmental activists to keep them from opposing timber extraction on native lands near the border with Brazil, a prosecutor said on Friday.

More suspects linked to logging will likely be arrested as investigations proceed, said local prosecutor Eder Farfan.

Edwin Chota, a well-known environmental activist and Ashaninka tribal leader, was shot and killed along with three of his companions earlier this month in a remote rainforest region.

The case has triggered widespread criticism of Peru's response to complaints from indigenous communities over incursions from loggers and others on their lands.

Chota spent years opposing logging near his village of Saweto and reported several death threats he received to authorities, his colleagues and family members have said.

Late on Thursday, a Peruvian judge ordered Eurico Mapez, a Peruvian citizen, to nine months of preventive prison. His father, Adeuso Mapez, a Brazilian national, was arrested earlier this week.

Both men have denied any involvement in the murders, which led Peru to create a commission to tackle illegal logging.

Farfan, the prosecutor, said both Mapez men worked a legal logging concession that overlapped with the native Ashaninka village of Saweto in the region of Ucayali.

"The government didn't take into account that the community was inside the concession when creating it," said Farfan.

The government of President Ollanta Humala promised it would give the village of Saweto an official land title - a legal tool Chota had failed to secure despite years of efforts.

Authorities suspect the Mapezs ambushed Chota and the three other men near a ravine on September 1 - shooting them with a rifle and leaving their bodies to be eaten by animals, according to a statement from the office of the attorney general.

(Reporting by Mitra ; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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