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Men who beat woman to death in Argentina given suspended sentence

Prosecutors cut deal with defense team over “unintentional” killing in 2016 of Marisela Pozo

In March 2016, three men beat 27-year-old Marisela Pozo with iron bars, dragged her through the streets, tied her to a tree and then tortured her for three hours while onlookers in the small community close to Buenos Aires filmed the scene. She died three days later from her injuries.

A screen grab of the video showing the woman being beaten to death.

On June 9, Pozo’s family was informed that public prosecutors had agreed to an abbreviated trial procedure resulting in a one-year suspended prison sentence for the three men behind the attack.

The ruling, made public on Thursday, has prompted widespread criticism of a judicial system seen by many as failing to combat Argentina’s deep-rooted problem of violence against women, with more than 200 femicides each year in the South American country.

The lawyer representing Marisol Pozo’s family, Matías Bernal, said on Thursday he would be appealing the ruling. “This is shameful, I cannot believe how the public prosecutor could have reached a deal of this kind. A murder has gone unpunished and the family once again is being victimized. Three murderers are walking free because of a prosecutor,” he told EL PAÍS.

This ruling shows how little gender perspective the Argentinean justice system has

Matías Bernal, lawyer

Bernal said he was confident that an appeals court would overrule the deal and accept a trial. “They had her tied to a tree. They beat her and they threw her body into the gutter. If they didn’t want to kill her, what did they want to do? It certainly wasn’t about helping her,” he said. The public prosecutor’s office refused to answer questions.

According to local media reports, Pozo reportedly left her house in Gregorio Laferrere, some 30 kilometer southwest of Buenos Aires, on March 17, 2016 – probably under the influence of drugs – and walked for a kilometer in search of help. She entered a store, but she damaged a window. The owner and two customers dragged her outside and beat her with bats and iron bars. Video footage posted on social networks show her being beaten, and then lying unconscious, covered in blood.

Public prosecutors agreed a charge of manslaughter in the first degree, saying the men did not hit her “in vital areas” and thus did not intend to murder her. Manslaughter is punishable with jail terms of between one and three years, and prosecutors agreed on the minimum term.

Femicides in Argentina rose by 8% between 2015 and 2016. On average a woman is murdered every 30 hours

“This shows how little gender perspective the Argentinean justice system has. Marisela was 1.60 meters tall and they were three big men. If it had been a man, would they have beaten him like that? No, they killed her because she was a woman,” says Bernal.

Femicides rose by 8% between 2015 and 2016 in Argentina, according to the Supreme Court. On average a woman is murdered every 30 hours. Over the last three years, there have been growing protests and demands for the authorities to put greater resources into protecting women who report abuse, as well as raising awareness among judges and lawyers of women’s issues.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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