Latin America & Caribbean

Ecuador police convicted over Rafael Correa protest

Police protest on the streets of Quito
Image caption Police protested in a number of Ecuadorian cities in September against plans to cut their bonuses

A court in Ecuador has found six police officers guilty of crimes against the security of the state, during a protest last September in which the president was forcibly detained.

President Rafael Correa had to be rescued by the military after being tear-gassed and held for several hours in a hospital by police angry about plans to cut their bonuses.

He described the events as an attempted coup.

The six men will be sentenced later.

They include the former head of security for Ecuador's congress, Colonel Rolando Tapia.

President Correa vowed to purge the police and punish those responsible after the dramatic events of 30 September last year.

Images of the unrest were beamed around the world amid widespread fears that Ecuador could be witnessing a coup attempt, not merely a protest by the police and parts of the military.

The country has faced a number of coups and coup attempts in its turbulent political past.

Defiant address

Events turned violent after thousands of police launched a series of protests across the country, refusing to patrol the streets, blocking roads and seizing control of their barracks.

They were demonstrating against cuts to their benefits imposed by a public spending law, which had been passed as part of a government austerity drive.

Mr Correa, who had made an emotional and defiant address at a barracks in the capital, Quito, was jostled by protesters and then stunned when a tear gas canister was fired near his head.

In the subsequent confusion, he was rushed to a police hospital, supposedly for treatment, but then not allowed to leave.

Meanwhile, a contingent of troops took control of Quito's international airport, in a parallel demonstration against the cuts.

The head of the armed forces pledged his support to Mr Correa, and loyalist troops stormed the police hospital where he was being held.

In the gunfight that followed, a number of people were killed, but Mr Correa was rescued and taken to the presidential palace, where he addressed jubilant supporters.

The police chief resigned in the wake of the uprising, and was replaced the next day.

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