Two Unjustly Held Christian Prisoners Declared Innocent in Peru

Monday, March 21, 2005

March 21, 2005 (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) -- Two Christian prisoners, one of whom has spent ten years behind bars, have recently been declared innocent in Peru.

The first, Lucio Vilca Galindo, was arrested for the second time in April 1995. He was accused of treason against the state – a crime for which he had already been tried and acquitted. His first trial in 1993 was in a Naval Court where he was accused along with a group of others of being part of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and participating in subversive acts. The co-accused, however, stated in various forms that they had never met Lucio before and he was released.

His release and subsequent complaints about his treatment by the police angered the officers in charge of his case. Representatives from CEAS, a Peru-based human rights organisation, believe that these same officers encouraged a ‘repented terrorist’ to denounce Lucio. This time Lucio was tried by the Army. The denunciation was the only evidence against him but he was still found guilty and sentenced to life in prison leaving his wife and five children destitute.

CEAS, a Christian Solidarity Worldwide partner, took up Lucio’s case, and has fought for his freedom for the past five years. He was found innocent on March 17 and was due to be released the next day. CSW has visited Lucio in the Lima prison three times and CEAS reports that CSW supporters sent him more than 3,000 letters and cards.

The second person to be released is a Peruvian evangelical pastor, arrested on March 3 2005 in Lima. On March 11, Pastor Jose Garcia Pena was released by order of Judge Ana Vasquez.

Pastor Garcia, from Cuzco, was visiting Lima when he was informed there was a warrant for his arrest and was promptly arrested and imprisoned. His name, which is fairly common in Peru, apparently appeared on wanted lists for crimes of terrorism issued by courts in the northern cities of Piura and Lambayeque. According to Pastor Garcia he has never visited the area, which is hundreds of kilometres to the northwest of Cuzco and he has never been involved in any terrorist activity. It appears that he is a victim of mistaken identity, as the warrants carry only a name and no other identifying information to avoid arresting someone with the same name.

CSW’s Peruvian partners at Paz y Esperanza (Peace and Hope), who work for the release of those unjustly held on terrorism offences, say Pastor Garcia’s arrest highlights ongoing problems in the Peruvian justice system. These problems date from disgraced ex-President Alberto Fujimori’s anti-terrorism campaign, and have yet to be addressed by the Peruvian government.

According to Paz y Esperanza, more than 12,300 Peruvians have warrants out for their arrest, dating from Fujimori’s crackdown on terrorism. Many have no idea that their names are included on these lists.

Paz y Esperanza are in the process of submitting legal documents to request that the authorities formally recognize that Pastor Garcia has the same name as the person who is actually wanted for crimes of terrorism, to avoid such problems in the future.

According to Paz y Esperanza, Pastor Garcia shared the experience of his unjust detention, describing “the moments of pain and uncertainty, but also of hope in the Lord in the midst of difficulty, during which he was able to share the Word of God with the other prisoners.”

PyE added: “He gave thanks to the Lord for all of the people who in one way or another interceded on his behalf.”

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide said, “CSW has been campaigning hard for Lucio’s release and we are very pleased to learn that after so many years, the Peruvian justice system has finally recognised his innocence and he is now to be reunited with his family in freedom.

“We are also relieved to hear of Pastor Garcia’s release and are thankful for the quick and just response of Judge Vasquez. This case however serves to highlight ongoing problems in Peru in which men and women whose names appear on these lists can be detained and imprisoned without verifying and corroborating the evidence against them. We would call upon the Peruvian government to put in place legal mechanisms that will ensure that this type of error does not continue to occur.”

For more information, please contact Richard Chilvers, Communications Manager at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on 020 8329 0045 or email or visit