Tuesday
January 17, 2017
Friday, January 6, 2017

Not only the sentence suspended

If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, the conviction of Túpac Amaru social leader Milagro Sala by a Jujuy court on probably the frailest of the various charges against her merely serves to underline the doubts as to the justice of the drive against her. In some quarters (and perhaps especially among the many in the Mauricio Macri administration who are anxious to soft-pedal an arbitrary prosecution which is increasingly becoming an international embarrassment) it was celebrated that Sala ended up with the three-year suspended sentence sought by the prosecutor instead of the eight years vindictively demanded by the plaintiff representing Jujuy Governor Gerardo Morales but this compromise solution is hardly less of a disservice to justice.

While due procedure had been violated from the start by Sala’s imprisonment ahead of any arraignment, the trial concluding last week (and now last year) seemed to multiply the double standards more than the other cases. The charge — of inciting an escrache protest against then Senator Morales in 2009 — lacks legal substance in both formal and real terms. For a start the charges should have expired according to the statute of limitations. Sala was not present at the protest in question and nor could her indirect influence be proved (although nor could it be disproved). Yet the bigger objection is to ask why this form of protest has suddenly become a penal offence. Practised across the political spectrum for many years (both by and against Kirchnerism), this technique is often the object of civic repudiation (and usually quite rightly, especially when straying beyond the original purpose of exposing the worst crimes against humanity) but never considered a criminal offence — thus then Lower House Majority Leader Agustín Rossi had eggs thrown at him by angry farmers in the same period as the anti-Morales protest without anybody arguing that the incident belonged in court. The suspended sentence might thus serve Macri’s political convenience (ahead of the vendetta sought by Morales) but never true justice.

A political trial in the worst sense of the phrase. Should Sala be convicted in a formally correct trial on a charge possessing legal substance (for example, embezzlement or corruption, even allowing for more double standards in the form of countless other similar cases not being given the same priority), the situation might change but until then she cannot be considered as either more or less than a political prisoner.

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