ASUNCION – Three of the 11 farmers imprisoned following an armed clash that resulted in 17 deaths and led to the ouster of Paraguay’s then-president were released from prison Friday after the Supreme Court overturned their convictions.
Luis Olmedo, Nestor Castro, and Arnaldo Quintana were greeted by family and friends outside Tacumbu prison in Asuncion.
A fourth defendant in the so-called Curuguaty massacre, Ruben Villalba, will remain incarcerated at Tacumbu serving a sentence for an earlier conviction, but a source with the Paraguay Human Rights Coordinator told EFE it was likely he would be paroled in the coming months.
The four men in Tacumbu were serving 30 years.
Seven other defendants serving shorter sentences, several of them women, had already left prison ahead of this week’s Supreme Court ruling.
Controversy surrounded the 2016 trial of the 11 farmers, which focused solely on the deaths of six police officers in Curuguaty.
No one has ever been charged with the killings of the 11 peasants who died during the events of June 15, 2012, on the Morumbi property, a spread of 2,000 hectares (4,938 acres) in the eastern municipality of Curuguaty.
Authorities had sent more than 300 police officers backed by helicopters to clear peasants off the estate, pursuant to a court order obtained by Morumbi’s owner, prominent politician and businessman Blas N. Riquelme.
Opponents of then-President Fernando Lugo seized upon the violence at Curuguaty as a pretext to remove the head of state.
On June 22, 2012, the opposition-dominated lower house voted overwhelmingly to impeach Lugo, and the Senate adopted a schedule that called for the president’s trial to begin at 12:00 p.m. the following day and a verdict to be rendered before nightfall.
Lugo, a former Catholic bishop, was elected in 2008 at the head of a broad-based coalition in favor of reform in the poor, landlocked South American nation.
Paraguay’s partners in the Mercosur trade bloc characterized Lugo’s removal as a coup and suspended Asuncion from the organization for several years.