SANTIAGO – A Chilean man, who was jailed for gouging out his girlfriend’s eyes in an attack, has his term shortened from 26 to 18 years.
Ruling that Mauricio Ortega was not attempting to kill her partner when he attacked her, the Supreme Court announced its verdict on Tuesday.
Ortega was sentenced to 26 years and 170 days in prison for attempted murder and other offences after the brutal attack on Ms. Nabila Rifo.
A court in the city of Coyhaique, in the southern Chilean region of Aysen, heard how Ortega launched himself at her in the middle of the street in an unreported location.
Rifo, 29, a mother of four, was found unconscious, with various skull fractures, some broken teeth and her eyes missing. She was also suffering from hypothermia.
The Wednesday’s ruling sparked a protest outside the Supreme Court.
The trial against Ortega, the father of two of Rifo’s children, has become symbolic of the issue of domestic violence in Chile.
On social media, thousands of Chileans are voicing their opinions against what they see as an “unjust decision”.
Lock him in a dark prison for ever. Tomorrow he does this to your daughter/sister/mother. This is a sick sick man #NabilaRifo
— HeloiseBrown (@Heloise75531672) July 12, 2017
— Scotty Terrier (@AsclepiusDNA) July 12, 2017
— Lupe Sepulveda (@lupesepulveda) July 12, 2017
Both #NabilaRifo and #NabilaRiffo have trended on Twitter in Chile.
The Minister for Women’s Rights and Gender Equity, Claudia Pascual, told reporters she accepted the court’s decision, but did not agree with it.
“When one person strikes another with injuries as serious as is the case of Nabila, it is difficult to think that there was not an intention to kill,” she said.
The attack on Ms Rifo in southern Chile last year became a huge symbol of the country’s uphill battle against domestic violence.
After she was found in a bloodied heap on a road in Coyhaique, shocked neighbours held a protest calling for “respect and justice”.
President Michelle Bachelet visited her in hospital and when Ortega was sentenced in May 2017, she said justice had been served. “It is fundamental that the country defends women against violence,” she tweeted.
Hoy se hizo justicia con Nabila Rifo. Es fundamental que el país defienda a mujeres de la violencia y diga con fuerza #ChileSinFemicidios
— Michelle Bachelet (@mbachelet) May 2, 2017
Ortega was found guilty of causing serious injury and “attempted femicide” (a legal term in the country, meaning the killing of a woman because of her gender).
However, his defence lawyer, Ricardo Flores, then launched a fight for a retrial in order to reduce the sentence.
Mr. Flores said last month: “From the legal point of view, it would have been simpler to have killed her than simply to have left her alive.”
President Bachelet tweeted on 21 June: “Outrageous statements from the lawyer of Nabila Rifo’s attacker. They stem from deep violence. This can not be tolerated.”
Indignantes las declaraciones del abogado del agresor de Nabila Rifo. Son de una profunda violencia. No se pueden tolerar.
— Michelle Bachelet (@mbachelet) June 21, 2017
The court rejected the appeal for a retrial, but reduced the jail time after overruling the prosecution for “attempted femicide”.
Ms. Rifo used to work as a waitress and is as yet unable to look after herself. She says she wants to publicize her case to help other victims of domestic violence.