Peru: Montesinos cleared in bloody 1997 raid

The Penal Chamber of Peru's Supreme Court on July 21 affirmed its acquittal of imprisoned former intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos of homicide charges related to the 1997 military raid on the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima after it was seized by guerillas of the now-defunct Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). Two commandos, one hostage, and all 14 of the guerillas were killed in the operation, code-named "Chavín de Huantar." Two commandos who oversaw the operaiton, Nicolás Hermoza Ríos and Roberto Huamán Azcurra, were also cleared of homicide charges in the ruling. The three had been acquitted last October, but prosecutors requested a review of the earlier ruling on the basis of forensic evidence. The high court admitted that at least one of the "terrorists" (as the guerrillas are almost universally refered to in Peru's press), Eduardo Cruz Sánchez AKA "Tito," had been "executed"—shot to the head after he had already surrendered to the commandos. But the court found that it could not be determined who shot him, or if orders were given for the killing.

Montesinos, already convicted of corruption and rights abuses, may face other charges. Prosecutors this week revealed that they interrogated him last month at Callao Naval Base concerning the "forced disappearance" of three students at the University of Callao in 1993. (Peru21, La Republica, El Comercio, July 25; La Republica, July 21)

Montesinos served under president Alberto Fujimori, now also facing a lengthy prison term for rights abuses and corruption during his autocratic rule in the 1990s.

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