9 Feb 2011

Rapa Nui trespass case on hold while land ownership issue decided

2:48 pm on 9 February 2011

A lawyer for a family clan on Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, says they have won a victory of sorts with a court deciding to put trespass charges on hold.

The Hito family had occupied the Hangaroa Hotel on the Chilean island for the past six months, claiming it was on ancestral land.

Their lawyer, Rodrigo Gomez, says they have won a reprieve from the criminal charges with a Valparaiso court to reconsider their separate civil claim to the land.

An earlier tribunal hearing on Easter Island had decided the Hito family had no claim to the hotel land but they'd appealed this finding.

Mr Gomez says the judge ruled that the courts must first determine who rightfully owns the land.

He says it's not clear when that will happen.

"We are not able to know about that because the court has its own timing. So we couldn't say, but [we expect it to sit] during the next six months."