Chile police release constitutional delegates detained during protest

SANTIAGO, July 15 (Reuters) - A Chilean judge ordered on Thursday the release of two delegates to Chile's constitutional convention shortly after they were detained during a protest over political prisoners, according to a court filing.

Armed police wearing helmets and flak jackets hauled off the two delegates, Alejandra Perez and Manuel Woldarsky, early Thursday afternoon in a chaotic scene relayed on video uploaded to social media. Protesters screamed at security forces as the representatives were loaded onto a truck with other detainees.

A judge shortly after ordered the delegates be released, together with nine other protesters, stating that security forces had failed to respect the "right of expression and assembly established in the Constitution," according to the court filing.

Both delegates confirmed on social media that they had been freed following their brief detention. The situation, however, led leaders of the constitutional convention to postpone the afternoon's session.

Chile's Carabinero police force did not respond to a request for comment on the case.

The delegates belong to the Lista del Pueblo, a group of independent representatives to Chile's newly elected constitutional convention who are not affiliated with existing political parties. The group garnered the third largest number of votes during the election of representatives, behind left- and right- leaning coalitions.

"We went to accompany the mothers of political prisoners in a peaceful protest when we were invaded by this contingent (of the police)," said Rodrigo Rojas, another member of the movement who attended the protest.

Perez and Woldarsky had joined a group of protesters that say the Chilean government took political prisoners during massive, and sometimes violent, demonstrations over inequality that took place in late 2019. The government has rejected the allegations that the detentions were politically-motivated.

Those protests opened the door to a referendum last October in which Chileans voted to rewrite the current constitution - drafted during Augusto Pinochet's 1973-1990 military dictatorship.

The 155-strong constitutional convention is dominated by independent candidates, some of them with roots in the 2019 protests.

Reporting by Aislinn Laing and Fabian Cambero; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Alex Richardson

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