Benki Piyãko, Ashaninka indigenous leader, 2006 Ashoka Fellow, 2013 Human Rights Award recipient, 2017 UNDP Equator Prize recipient, could be criminally condemned for reporting threats to his person, and faces up to 8 years in jail.
After facing conflicts in the city of Marechal Thaumaturgo, Acre, during April 2015, Benki Piyãko, Ashaninka leader from the indigenous community of Alto Juruá, Acre, Brazil, lodged a complaint with the police to inform about the risks of violence he was suffering. These occurred because of his work as an environmental activist, for which he has been internationally awarded and recognized, as well as for his leadership of the Ashaninka Community of Rio Amônia.
The people responsible for the investigation of the case went to the municipality headquarters and after barely considering the allegations of the accused, they decided to file the complaint, and instead indict Benki, initiating legal action against the indigenous leader on the base of “slanderous accusation”.
The Public State Ministry of Acre accepted the cause and proposed to begin legal action against Benki, and now the Ashaninka leader could be unjustly condemned to eight years of prison. The case in being tramited in Cruzeiro do Sul (1º Vara Criminal da Comarca de Cruzeiro do Sul/AC), is in its final phase of declarations and accusations, and will soon be judged. The lawyer responsible for Benki’s defense is Antonio Rodrigo Machado, also an activist in the defense of the Ashaninka peoples and other causes against logging.
In his lawyers words: “Benki Piyako went to the Brazilian State looking for help and protection from the police forces, and instead he is now being targeted and accused for a crime he did not commit. By being targeted by the Brazilian criminal system, it is not only Benki’s freedom that is at risk, but all the Peoples of the Forest and their cultures.