Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Peruvian Lawyers Arrested

Between November 18-21, 1997, in Lima, Peru, agents of the Peruvian political police, DINCOTE, arrested lawyers Ernesto Messa Delgado, Carlos Gamero Quispe, Luis Ramon Landaure and Teodoro Bendezu Montes. The arrestees' family members said they were given no reason for the arrests and noted that the detentions occurred after the lawyers had complained of "strange break-ins" at their law offices.

Attorney Diego Obregon Palacios, representing the detained attorneys, said that his colleagues were part of a list of more than 200 Peruvian lawyers who are being investigated by DINCOTE for "ties to terrorism" and who may be arrested in the near future. Obregon said the detained lawyers were being accused of acts of terrorism, apology for terrorism and treason to the fatherland, even though police had made no public statement concerning the charges. Obregon said their arrest was due to their defense of accused members of the Communist Party of Peru (PCP, AKA the "Shining Path"), and that they were being held for interrogation about the PCP.

All four arrested lawyers are members of the Association of Democratic Lawyers (ADL). In order to practice law in Peru one must be a member of the Bar Association. The ADL is composed of progressive lawyers who frequently represent citizens accused of political offenses. [For further information on the ADL see: "Peru's Lawyers: A High Risk Profession." PLN , Aug. 1994.] The ADL has paid a heavy price under the dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori: more than 40 of its lawyer members are imprisoned for lengthy terms of incarceration for the "crime" of representing defendants accused of political offenses. Those are the lucky ones. Dozens more have been murdered or "disappeared'' by government security forces.

The Peruvian court system offers nothing in the way of due process protection to political defendants. The accused usually learns of the charges against them when they appear in court. Trials take place before military tribunals of hooded, anonymous military judges. Prosecutors are also hooded and anonymous. Clients are not allowed to consult with their lawyers, if they have one, before the proceedings. Defense lawyers are powerless to present any type of meaningful defense: there are no witnesses to cross examine, no jury to sway, no evidence to examine. "Trials" are concluded in a matter of hours, with life sentences being the usual result. The role of ADL lawyers under these circumstances has been to essentially bear witness to the railroading of those accused of political crimes.

ADL lawyers who arrive in court prepared to try to defend their clients don't know if they will ever leave again as free citizens. When PCP chairman Abimael Guzman was placed on trial for "treason," his lawyer, ADL president Dr. Alfredo Crespo Bragaryac, was prohibited from mounting any type of defense. When Guzman's trial concluded a few hours later, Dr. Crespo was arrested and charged with treason for representing Guzman. Dr. Crespo is now serving a sentence of life imprisonment. The Peruvian government seeks to attribute the alleged crime of the client to their attorney. The equivalent to this practice is an American lawyer who represents a client charged with robbery being charged for the same crime as the client. Despite this abysmal, and dangerous, situation ADL members continue to represent citizens accused of political offenses.

In addition to extremely harsh prison conditions, which the government has openly admitted have the purpose of ensuring no one can survive a life sentence, the armed forces of Peru have carried out large scale massacres of political prisoners, including ADL members. [ PLN , June, 1996 and September, 1992] Political prisoners in Peru are also denied the right to counsel after they are convicted in the anonymous military courts. Guzman, for example, has been denied all communication and contact with the outside world, including any visits from his doctor or his current lawyer, former National Lawyers Guild President Peter Erlinder.

The current arrest of ADL lawyers is seen as a "rounding up of the usual suspects" in the government's ongoing, and unsuccessful, attempt to crush the PCP. Having declared the PCP "destroyed" several times in the past few years the Peruvian government is faced with an embarrassing resurgence of PCP activity. By targeting ADL members the government hopes to intimidate the legal profession into refusing to represent those accused of political offenses, essentially leaving no witnesses to the travesty of justice that passes for a "legal system" in Peru.

To protest the arrest of the ADL lawyers write:
Ambassador Ricardo Luna
Embassy of Peru
1700 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
ashington D.C. 20036
Tele: (202) 833-9860

For more information on the revolution in Peru contact:
USA/PRP Friendship Association
304 Main Ave. Box 185
Norwalk, CT 06851

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login