In a legal first, Otoniel Jara, the prosecutor in charge of the investigation of the murder of four Ashaninka indigenous leaders, has requested the courts for a 35-year prison sentence for those identified as having planned and carried out the killings.

Environmental indigenous activists Edwin Chota, Jorge Rios, Leoncio Quintisima and Francisco Pinedo were shot dead in September 2014 for denouncing illegal logging activities in their territories in Ucayali region. According to Associated Press, at least six environmental indigenous defenders have been killed since 2013 because of their work in revealing illicit logging activities. Not until now, however, has any state authority attempted to bring penal charges against those responsible.

Those accused of ordering the killings are two logging businessmen, one of which had reportedly threatened to kill Chota a year earlier after he had succeeded in pushing the authorities to detain a cargo containing illegal logging valued at over US$37,000. The other three, accused of carrying out the killings, worked as illegal loggers.

Jara is the sixth prosecutor in charge of the investigation. The other five failed to make charges. According to Jara, this was out of what he called “lack of interest”. He believes that there are others implicated. He has thus requested the courts to authorise the opening of an additional investigation.