Chile Police Release Israeli Tourist Suspected of Causing Forest Fire

Father of 23-year-old denies his son caused the fire, which burned down over 11,000 hectares; Chilean Environment Minister: fire was 'obviously caused by tourists' negligence... most chances are that it was accidental.'

Rotem Singer, the 23-year-old Israeli tourist suspected of causing a forest fire in Chile's national park, was released Sunday from custody under restrictive conditions, and must report to a local police station once a week.

Singer was detained after authorities said he admitted he had lit a bonfire in an area of Chile's Torres del Paine park, where such fires are prohibited. As he was led to the courtroom, angry citizens shouted "filthy Jew" at him.


The local prosecutor told Chilean CNN that Singer was maintaining his right to silence until he could see an Israeli attorney, since he doesn't speak Spanish.

At worst, he could be sentenced to 60 days in prison, and fined up to $300, although Chilean Environment Minister Maria Ignacia Benitez said that the government would sue the perpetrators.

"[The fire was] obviously caused by tourists' negligence. It could have been accidental, and most chances are that it was accidental, even though we can't be certain," she said.

Singer was released to the village of Puerto Natales. His passport was confiscated and he is forbidden to leave the Patagonia region in southern Chile until his case is heard.

Singer's father denies his son caused the fire, which burned down over 11,000 hectares. "He was a long distance from where the fire began," Hezi Singer, told Army Radio. "Rotem is confused and frightened. They brought him a translator we know nothing about, and a local attorney who isn't exactly doing his job. They were probably looking for a scapegoat who doesn't speak Spanish."

Singer said he plans to fly to Chile to support his son.