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Chile's Most Wanted

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The story of how Pascual Pichun became the first man to be convicted of terrorism in Chile.

I'm in a car with a terrorist, if I'm to believe the Chilean courts. But am I?

Branded a 'terrorist' aged 17 by the Chilean Government, 28 year old Pascual Pichun is a man on a mission. He's a symbol of the indigenous Mapuche resistance movement trying to protect and take back its ancestral lands from the government and foreign companies. That's why I'm here; to film a man on a mission. A traveller with a cause, Pascual has to be on the move all the time, recording human rights violations against his Mapuche community.

As we set off for our journey we are accompanied by Luis, Pascual's brother. Luis jokes: "Look at that house; surely it belongs to a "Huinca"? What is "Huinca", I ask. "Well", he says with a half- smile on his face, "the Incas invaded us before the Spanish came. Inca means invader. The invaders that came after the Incas were called the New Incas, or Huinca, the Europeans. All of them are Huincas".

Pascual and Luis know that a lot of their ancestral land was given to foreign landowners during the 1970's dictatorship. Since then, the Mapuche have been involved in an uphill struggle to repossess their land. Forced into US-style "Indian reservations", the Mapuches learned to survive doing temporary farm labour.

Pascual tells me of a famous case many years ago when a Mapuche farmer became so fed up with the situation that he said "is enough is enough" and took back the land expropriated from his father by force. That man was of course Pascual's father. Don Juan Pichun.

Although many years had passed since Don Juan Pichun had bravely taken back his land, here I was, sitting in a car with two of his sons, who today continue the family tradition of Mapuche resistance.

None of this is in the film however; because in the 3 weeks we were together Pascual did not stop getting into trouble. Enough trouble for a 25 minute film.

But let's go back to the beginning.

I chose Pascual Pichun to be the main character of my film because he has been a symbol of the Mapuche indigenous struggle since he was 17. It was at this young age that he was imprisoned for setting fire to a pine plantation, in a concerted effort with his brother and father to take back their ancestral land. For the Chilean Courts, the protection of private property is the most important factor when handing out sentences to Mapuche activists. The political argument doesn't count. Every court ruling is influenced by the anti-terror laws imposed by General Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship back in 1973.

Pascual's parents suffered the brunt of the repression. Many Mapuche community leaders were Socialists and suffered disappearances, torture and death in concentration camps. There is a connection between the neo-liberal policies introduced by the military regime and the enforcement of private property rights of foreign corporations in Chile.

"There's a very visible link", Pascual says. "At the heart of it lies our right to self-determination as a people, we want our Mapuche Nation to stand upright and fight back for our land, our culture, our language. Getting the land back is just the first step. Then you open up a school to teach the Mapuche language. We need to come up with a new history course for children and adults because we learnt history from the Huincas and for them we don't exist."

Pascual says this as we pull by a fence in Pilmaiquen. Beyond the fence, we can see their recovered land. 24 hours later we were being interrogated by the anti-terrorist police.

'Chile's Most Wanted' is part of Activate, a documentary series on Al Jazeera English. Airing from 15 October, every Monday at 22:30GMT
www.aljazeera.com/programmes/activate