Prosecutors in Paraguay have filed charges against 14 peasants allegedly involved in a land dispute which resulted in the killing of 17 people last June, six months ago. The charges range from murder to criminal association and land invasion.
Six police officers and eleven landless peasants were killed in June in an operation to evict the peasants from land they had occupied. The prosecutors say the peasants opened fire on the police first, setting off the deadly shoot-out.
Then-President Fernando Lugo was ousted over his handling of the deadly clash.
Prosecutor Jalil Rachid said he had enough evidence to show that those charged had been the ones to fire first on 15 June at a farm they had occupied in eastern Canindeyu province. Mr Rachid said the police officers were unarmed at the time and therefore at a disadvantage.
Defence lawyers have argued that the police response to the initial shots was indiscriminate. They say the officers shot at peasants regardless whether they were armed or not.
Landless peasants have lobbied the Paraguayan government for many years to redistribute farmland in Canindeyu, which they say was illegally grabbed by a late senator in the 1960s.
In May, the peasants moved onto the farm. In June, police were deployed to the farm to evict the peasants. The officers said they were ambushed in a wooded area as they tried to negotiate a peaceful eviction.
In the shooting which followed, 11 peasants and six police were killed.
President Lugo sent in the army to quell the disturbance. A week later, Congress impeached him over his handling of the clashes.
The Inter American Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International have been pressing the Paraguayan government for a in-depth investigation into the incident and killings, and taking to justice those responsible for the shootout.
Last Saturday relatives of the peasants killed held a mass at the entrance of the disputed farm. Father Antonio Gonzalez from the Curuguaty parish held the service. The actual shooting took place tow kilometres inside the Morombi estate but the relatives were not allowed in.
It was later revealed that the ban on visiting the sight of the killings was ordered by Prosecutor Rachid who was prepared to let only a delegation of three to the place. The relatives did not accept the condition and held the mass at the gate of the estate.