PERU: CPJ and RSF send letters about journalist’s imprisonment

February 13, 2003

TO: Fausto Alvarado Dodero
Minister of Justice of the Republic of Peru
Scipión Llona 350, Miraflores
Lima, Peru

Via facsimile: + 51-1-422-3577

Dear Mr. Alvarado Dodero:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to inquire about the status of journalist Juan de Mata Jara Berrospi, who was sentenced in 1994 to 20 years in prison on charges of collaborating with terrorists.

On July 10, 1993, Jara Berrospi was arrested in the district of Comas, north of Peru’s capital, Lima. When he was arrested, authorities found in his possession maps and negatives showing where nine students and a professor of La Cantuta University, who had been murdered, were buried. The police believed that Jara Berrospi was going to publish the information contained in those maps and negatives–which suggested that Peruvian paramilitary members were responsible for the killings–in El Diario, a newspaper that President Alan García’s government had banned in 1989 because of alleged links to the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) terrorist group. Moreover, authorities said Jara Berrospi had been frequently visiting El Diario‘s offices, and that they believed he was on the newspaper’s staff.

According to CPJ sources, no one testified against Jara Berrospi at the trial. During the trial, the journalist denied any involvement with the terrorist group and claimed that the maps and the negatives had been placed anonymously in his yard. Sources also reported that a television station had reported on the maps and negatives two days before the journalist was arrested.

On November 16, 1994, an anonymous panel of judges sentenced Jara to 20 years in prison, and he was placed in the Miguel Castro Castro maximum-security prison in Lima. Various attempts to appeal the verdict have been unsuccessful, and reviews for a presidential pardon failed to secure his release.

Prior to his arrest, Jara Berrospi had worked for several years as a producer for the regional station Radio Comas and had written for the local dailies El Heraldo Huanuqueño and El Informador. Jara Berrospi also wrote for El Diario in 1987, two years before the paper was officially banned.

From July 9 to July 11, 1993, ten individuals were arrested for allegedly having connections with El Diario. With the exception of Jara Berrospi, all have been pardoned and released from jail; six were released two weeks after being arrested, two were released in 1994, and two were pardoned–one in 1998 and one in 2001.

As an organization dedicated to protecting press freedom worldwide, CPJ is continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding Juan de Mata Jara Berrospi’s imprisonment. We urgently request that you make available to us any additional information you might have regarding his case.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your response.

Joel Simon
Acting Director