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HAGÅTÑA, Guam (February 14, 2000 - Radio Australia's Pacific Beat)---Guam's Indigenous Chamorro people have launched a campaign pushing the U.S. government to free Senator Angel Santos from a California prison so he can be returned to Guam.

Santos was sentenced to six months in jail two weeks ago for contempt of court after defying government orders and leading a mass land rights rally late last year.

The Chamorro people have been demanding the return of lands, which are now being used as a wildlife refuge by the U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service.

Chamorro leader Ed Beneventi said he is rallying other organizations in the U.S. in calling for Santos' release or to allow him to serve his sentence in Guam.

"A sadness lingers throughout the island here with his incarceration," he said.

"To be taken out of your homelands, a place where you were born and raised, and taken by colonizers is sad for the family. Our struggle here is a big one," he said.

There are no federal prisons in Guam, so those convicted of breaking federal laws are sent to the United States to serve time.

"The incarceration of Senator Santos has brought an awareness of our people," he said.

Beneventi said Santos has always been a catalyst for indigenous issues and has won the respect of both Chamorros and non-Chamorros.

"Angel Santos began his career as an activist and went into politics to see if he can help our people through the political route. The people are saddened by his incarceration and now are angered toward the United States. Six months of non-freedom makes an impact toward the movement here," he said.

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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