Cultural clash and language barrier resulted in release

The two pardoned women embrace. In the background is Marta Monge, secretary of the Consejo de Gobierno who handled the release paperwork.

A woman who got 13 years in the beating murder of a family member suspected of witchcraft has been released from prison by the Consejo de Gobierno.

Also pardoned and released was a woman convicted of bringing drugs into a prison.

They are the only two persons to be freed this Christmas season although 45 cases were put forward for consideration, said the Consejo.

The case of Olivia Bejarano Bejarano, a member of the Nögbe community in southern Costa Rica, had been taken up by the nation’s public defender and the Defensoría de los Habitantes.

Marta Iris Muñoz Cascante, director of the Defensa Pública, published particulars of the case in a Friday opinion piece in La Nación.

Both she and the Defensoría said that the woman was sentenced in an abbreviated session when she did not understand the charges against her and in a language, Spanish, she did not understand. She was jailed in 2008.

In addition, both also claimed that the woman was the victim of discrimination in prison. The Defensoría said she spent two years without speaking the language of her parents, without using the clothes of her people and without preparing traditional foods. She also was identified as a mother of two.

She suffered from a rapid process of acculturation, said the Defensoría.

She pleaded guilty to the crime that took the life of Joaquín Bejarano Bejarano Jan. 27, 2008, in Copey de Limoncito de Coto Brus in southern Puntarenas province. Three men, including her husband, went to jail for the same crime, but there was no indication Tuesday if they spoke Spanish.

Casa Presidencial photo
The two pardoned women embrace. In the background is Marta Monge, secretary of the Consejo de Gobierno who handled the release paperwork.

The other woman set free was Sally Calderón Oconitrillo. Both women were in the Buen Pastor women’s prison in Desamparados. Ms. Calderón had been in jail since March on an eight-year sentence. She was put forward for pardon because officials said she was forced to commit the crime due to fear of her husband.

Releasing convicts is traditional at the holiday seasons.

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