Peruvian Prisoner Falsely Sentenced For Terrorist Crimes Has Further Wait for Justice

Sunday, August 11, 2002

A prisoner who has spent nearly ten years behind bars in Peru for terrorist crimes he did not commit has now had to wait an additional three months for the result of his appeal.

Walter Cubas Baltazar, is waiting for the Peruvian Human Rights Commision, who heard his case in March, to make their decision and Christian Solidarity Worldwide is calling on the Commission to recommend him for pardon. Cubas Baltazar, 38, was arrested on January 20, 1993 and accused of various terrorist activities including painting graffiti and taking part in a riot. He was then tortured by anti-terrorist security agents until he "confessed". CSW representatives met with Cubas Baltazar in June 2001, where he recounted how he sang Christian songs to withstand the pain. A military tribunal sentenced him to life in prison, leaving his wife and four young children virtually destitute.

Under former President Alberto Fujimori during the 1990s, hundreds of innocent Peruvians were rounded up and convicted by 'faceless judges' whose identity was hidden. The accused were unable to cross-examine witnesses, challenge government evidence, or call witnesses in their defence. Hundreds were convicted on the flimsiest of evidence and remain in prison, often in appalling conditions, with little hope of justice.

CSW works closely with two partner organizations in Peru to offer legal, psychological and spiritual support to those who have been falsely accused and imprisoned.

One of these, Paz y Esperanza (Peace and Hope), has taken up Cubas Baltazar's case and former prisoner Wuille Ruiz Figueroa is representing him.

According to Ruiz Figueroa, Cubas Baltazar was targeted because of his union activity. He had been a labour leader at the clothing factory where he worked. They worked excessive hours and when the factory shut down without paying its workers, Cubas Baltazar led the protest. Cubas Baltazar is convinced that this led to the motive behind his arrest.

Cubas Baltazar is currently held in the Miguel Castro-Castro Maximum Security Prison in Lima where he is active in the Prison Christian Community. Conditions in Peruvian prisons are deplorable and are rife with diseases like Hepatitis and tuberculosis.

Cubas Baltazar told CSW representatives last year how he and his two cellmates share the tiny concrete cell built for two. They rotate every three nights, two sleeping on each of the cement beds and one on the floor. This has had damaging effects on their health.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said: "We continue to stand together with Walter Cubas Baltazar and his family and strongly urge the Peruvian government to redress this terrible miscarriage of justice without any further delay."