Ministers recorded 'interfering' in trial for Chavin killings

19 August 2013

A leaked audio recording appears to show key government figures pressuring the judiciary last year to acquit military officers charged with killing unarmed rebels following the 1997 Japanese embassy siege.

The case involved former President Fujimori’s spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos and other military officers. In 1997, the ‘Chavín de Huántar’ operation ended a four-month siege of the Japanese embassy in Lima, where members of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) had held hostage a group of dignitaries and others present at a reception. Fourteen MRTA rebels were killed in the operation.

Human rights defenders say Montesinos gave orders for some of the rebels to be executed, even though unarmed. The defendants were acquitted last October, in a verdict recently upheld by the Supreme Court. The Peruvian High Court ruled that at least one of rebels, Eduardo Cruz Sánchez (‘Tito’) had been executed by a shot to the head after he had surrendered to commandos, but it could not determine who was responsible.

In early August a recording emerged of a meeting between the judge in the case, Carmen Rojjasi, and then-justice minister (and now prime minister) Juan Jiménez in May 2012. Defence minister Pedro Cateriano and the former president of the judiciary, César San Martín, were also present. Jiménez is heard saying that it would be better for the case to be abandoned. The ministers have denied attempting to interfere in the judicial process.

Jo-Marie Burt of the Washington Office on Latin America, a US human rights lobby group, said the issue should be investigated urgently at the highest levels as “it would seem that the judge Rojassi was pressured to influence her sentence in the case.”

In late August, the National Council of Judges began a preliminary investigation.

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