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7 dead in Colombia protests after lawyer’s death in police custody

Seven people were killed in the Colombian capital Bogota and satellite city Soacha overnight in protests against police brutality, sparked by a widely shared video of a man being repeatedly shocked with a stun gun by police before later dying.

Nearly 100 police officers and 55 civilians were injured and dozens of stations and public vehicles damaged or set alight, the government said. There were 70 arrests, mostly in Bogota.

Demonstrators were protesting the death this week of lawyer Javier Ordonez, 46.

The video, filmed by Ordonez’s friend, shows him pinned to the ground by officers and subjected to successive electric shocks as he begs, “Please, no more.”

Police say Ordonez, a father of two, was found drinking alcohol in the street with friends in violation of coronavirus distancing rules. He was taken to a police station in western Bogota where his family alleges he suffered further abuse. He died later in hospital.

An aerial view shows the wreckage of lines of buses burned during the unrest Wednesday and early Thursday. (Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images)

The two officers involved have been suspended pending an investigation, the government has said. An autopsy is pending.

President appeals for calm

Authorities said they are investigating the deaths of the seven civilians in the protests — five in Bogota and two in Soacha. The dead include a 17-year-old boy.

“What we are facing here is a mass act of vandalism and violence,” Defence Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo told journalists. “What we are facing are unacceptable actions.”

President Ivan Duque has said there can be no tolerance for abuse of authority, but the government called for Colombians not to “stigmatize” police officers.

Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest in Bogota against the death of Javier Ordonez. (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images)

Left-wing Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez has been more critical of the police, saying violence “isn’t about bad apples.”

She urged protesters to refrain from violence.

“Destroying Bogota will not fix the police,” she said on Twitter Thursday. “Let’s concentrate on achieving justice and structural reform.”

Bogota’s police will be reinforced with 1,600 more officers, more than half of whom will come from other regions, and 300 soldiers, the defence ministry said.

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