A police officer has been arrested after allegedly throwing a teenager from a bridge during protests in Chile.
With a national referendum just weeks away, huge numbers of protesters have gathered in the capital of Santiago where violence has flared.
Police have attempted to brutally repress protesters by using tear gas and high-pressure water jets.
The 16-year-old boy is now reportedly in a stable condition with head trauma and a wrist fracture following the incident on Friday.
Pictures showed him laying face down in the dirty channel of the Mapocho river.
Dozens of people protested outside the clinic where he is being treated, condemning police and carrying signs that said: ‘He did not fall, they threw him.’
Pavel Pavelic Jofre, who led volunteers at the protests, said: ‘As the protesters fled, we saw the moment that the officer intercepted [the boy] and threw him from the bridge.
‘We managed to get two of our group down to assist him, and after stabilising his condition the fire brigade were able to lift him away from the river to be taken to hospital.’
The North Central Prosecutor’s Office of Santiago accused the police officer of ‘causing’ the teenager to fall, and said attempted murder charges would be filed.
But Enrique Monras, chief of police in Santiago’s western area, said the boy had lost his balance and fallen over the bridge railing after police attempted to arrest him.
He added ambulances were called to provide prompt assistance.
The government said in a statement that it condemns any violation of human rights. It said a police officer who ‘does not comply with the protocols or the law’ must be investigated and tried in the courts.
More than 14 million Chileans are set to vote in a national plebiscite on October 25, which will determine whether a new constitution will be drafted.
It comes after mass protests in the country since 2019 over a wide range of social and economic problems including the increased cost of living, privatisation and inequality across the country.
Chile’s public prosecutor said the national police force, the Carabineros, has been accused of 8,575 human rights violations in the protests since October last year.
Some 31 people have died in the unrest but only 16 police agents have stood down from their positions.
The referendum, which calls for a replacement of the constitution written in the era of Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship, was delayed from April due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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