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Suspects Carrying AK-47 Freed Due To Alleged Police Error

AK-47, illegal in Costa Rica, seized by police Thursday night. Photo from MSP

Q COSTA RICA – Two young men were detained late Thursday night for carrying an AK-47 assault rifle, whose use is banned in the country, but were released and without any precautionary measures, because there was supposedly an “incorrect” arrest by the Fuerza Publica (National Police).

Identified by their last names, Sánchez Vargas and Zúñiga Zelaya, aged 21 and 22, respectively, they were detained in Pavas traveling in a small truck carrying household items, stopped by police during a routine inspection.

The police report said on finding the weapon, a Soviet-made Avtomat Kalashnikova, also known as the Kalashnikov or AK-47, and a magazine with 30 rounds, the men were arrested and transferred to the San Jose Flagrancy Office of the Fiscalia (Prosecutor’s office), where it was determined that the search was improperly made.

According to the press office of the Fiscalia, the error occurred in that the search took place without the basis of a “notitia críminis” (criminal notice) to justify and legitimize the actions of the police.

The explanation by the Fiscalia said that the police did not indicate (to the suspects) that the intervention was being made because of a routine checkpoint search or if they had received an anonymous tip.

“The police are given constant training in order to correctly approach such cases, so that searches and inspections are based on a notitia criminis that leads to the presumption that people have participated in a crime (…) the training provided for the correct approach is based on jurisprudence established by the Third Chamber and habeas corpus resolutions of the Constitutional Court,” said the Fiscalia.

For its part, the Fuerza Publica alleges that the notitia criminis existed the moment police approached the vehicle. In a statement to the press, Carlos Hidalgo, spokesperson for the Ministerio de Seguridad Publica (MSP) said, “The approach of the officers of the San José Public Force was correct.”

The Prosecutor’s Office was quick to add that, despite the fact that the accused were released, the case is not dismissed and is still being investigated.

More weapons seized

Weapons seized in Barrio Los Cocos, Limon, early Friday morning. Photo MSP

In the early hours of Friday morning, in Los Cocos, in the province of Limon, police seized three more AK-47 weapons, as well as Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 rifle.

Two men, identified as Archibold McGregor and Ramos Alfaro were detained on charges of carrying illegal firearms.

The weapons were seized and two men are being held in detention, waiting a criminal trial.