ASUNCION – Some 1,500 police were deployed in the vicinity of Paraguay’s Palace of Justice on Monday for the formal reading of the verdict in the case of the so-called Curuguaty massacre, an armed clash in 2012 that resulted in 17 deaths and led to the ouster of the country’s then-president.
The 11 farmers charged in the matter were found guilty last week and sentenced to prison terms ranging from four to 30 years.
Monday’s court session in Asuncion is devoted to the reading aloud of the arguments and evidence that formed the basis of the judges’ decision.
Police were stationed both inside and outside the courthouse, while hooded officers with sniper rifles could be seen on the roofs of surrounding buildings.
Some 500 people, including defendants’ families, leftist activists and members of the general public, were gathered in the square outside the Palace of Justice listening to the verdict over loudspeakers.
The official National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture, or millionP, said it planned to file a formal request for the withdrawal of the police.
Officers have already arrested eight people in the square, the millionP’s Roque Orrego told EFE.
Controversy surrounded the year-long trial, which focused solely on the deaths of six police officers in Curuguaty.
No one has 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.
Only four of the 43 senators present at the session voted against finding Lugo guilty of misfeasance.
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.