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Regional Rights Body Says Argentina Should Free Jailed Activist

FILE - Tupac Amaru social movement leader Milagro Sala takes part in a ceremony in honor of Pachamama, or Mother Earth, in Jujuy, Argentina, Oct. 11, 2012.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said Friday that Argentina's government should release jailed social activist Milagro Sala.

The commission said in a statement that there are many risk factors surrounding her detention, including alleged harassment, aggression and a death threat.

It granted a precautionary measure in favor of Sala stating that Argentina is obligated to fulfill a U.N. panel's panel resolution last year saying she was arbitrarily detained and asked the government for her immediate release.

Sala heads Argentina's Tupac Amaru social movement and won a seat in 2015 in the regional parliament of the Mercosur group of South American nations.

She was arrested on January 16, 2016, and accused of "inciting criminal acts" linked to a protest she led against authorities. The Jujuy provincial government in northern Argentina then broadened the charges, saying her movement "embezzled public funds" meant for the construction of housing for low-income people.

Sala has denied any wrongdoing.

The government's Secretariat of Human Rights said in a statement that it would relay the recommendations to Jujuy's judicial and administrative authorities and that it respected the rights commission.

OAS body

Members of the commission, which is an autonomous body of the Organization of American States, visited Jujuy and met with representatives of all parties. The commission said Sala is under constant harassment, including the initiation of legal cases without the guarantee of the right to defense, constant transfers and extreme surveillance.

The commission acted in response to a complaint filed by the Argentine human rights group Center for Legal and Social Studies and other human rights organizations.

"The commission makes it clear that Milagro Sala cannot remain in jail," said Horacio Verbitsky, the group's president. "The constant transfers are using a perverse methodology. It's as if instead of a social leader, this was [Mexican drug lord] 'El Chapo' Guzman."

Sala, a close ally of former President Cristina Fernandez, is accused of irregularly managing money that she received during Fernandez's administration for the construction of lower-income housing in Jujuy province.

Her supporters say she looks only to benefit the poor. They call her arrest a political move by provincial Governor Gerardo Morales and other political allies of current President Mauricio Macri.