Worthy Christian News » Christian Persecution » President Toledo Of Peru Releases 20 More Prisoners Falsely Accused of Terrorism
Four more Christians are among 20 prisoners who have been freed from prison in Peru after serving long sentences for crimes they did not commit.
President Alejandro Toledo signed their pardons on December 28 after a government commission confirmed their innocence.
Edgar Macedo Carillo, Herbert del Aguila Isminio, Fernando Salvador ChihuÃ¡n Ruiz, and Leonardo Alva Cruz were leaders of the Christian communities in their respective prisons throughout their incarceration.
The men each received legal representation and pastoral support from CSW partners, Paz y Esperanza (Peace and Hope), an evangelical human rights organisation, and CEAS (Episcopal Commission for Social Action), a Catholic human rights group.
CSW representatives met with Edgar Macedo Carillo last July when they visited Castro-Castro Maximum Security Prison in Lima. Macedo was one of the founders of the "Christ the Liberator" Christian Community in the prison and was also responsible for the prison library and chapel.
A former policeman, he spent almost ten years in prison separated from his wife and two children, Jonathon and Edward, who live in the United States. In a letter written to CSW before his release he said, "Although my wife and children are in the United States [Boston], far from my eyes, they are close to my heart. I have spent nine years and three months as a prisoner and I have not tired of fighting for my freedom. I have sufficient strength to live in hope.
"This prison could not crush me because it was here that I came to know Christ - I discovered gifts that I had never had - imagine me, surrounded by prisoners who had been accused and sentenced for acts of terrorism...me, an ex-policeman! I found strength that came from within and was one of the founders of the Christian community during 1992, one of the most difficult periods.
"We found ourselves fighting against materialists, Marxists, many who did not want to see the Christian community grow, but I knew that we were not alone - the Spirit was active, edifying and always reminding me, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." [Philippians 4:13]
Herbert del Aguila Isminio, an impoverished farmer, was sentenced in 1993 by "faceless judges" to 20 years imprisonment for supposed ties to the Shining Path terrorist organisation. Throughout his time in the Huacariz Maximum Security Prison he was one of the leaders of the Christian community there.
Fernando Salvador ChihuÃ¡n Ruiz was sentenced in 1994 to 30 years imprisonment, after he was accused of being a member of the "annihilation platoon" of the Shining Path by "repented terrorist" Maritza Infantes. Seven years later, in August 2001, Infantes confessed that the accusation against Chihuan was a fabrication.
Leonardo Alva Cruz, spent the last eight years in the maximum security prison of Huamancaca in Huancayo after being sentenced to ten years. Throughout his incarceration Alva assumed the role of one of the leaders of the "Free behind Bars" evangelical community in the prison.
A system of anonymous judges, initiated by former President Fujimori, now in exile in Japan, was created ostensibly for the judges' own protection during a time of national turmoil. The lack of accountability, however, resulted in more than 800 wrongful imprisonments. According to Paz y Esperanza at least 100 innocent men and women still remain behind bars. This number includes many other practising Christians like Macedo, Alva, ChihuÃ¡n, and del Aguila.
Paz y Esperanza representatives also added that on January 3, President Toledo reduced the sentences of three other men, represented by the organisation, who were found to have been given sentences out of proportion to the crime committed. The three men who were subsequently freed, are the journalist Pedro Carranza, Fidel Baca Costa (both held in Huacariz Prison, Cajamarca), and Jonhy LeÃ³n Villanueva (Huaral Prison).
Paz y Esperanza is committed to the movement for national reconciliation and because of this also offers pastoral assistance and legal aid to the "unbound," individuals who have renounced their participation in subversive action, totally renounced violent action, and have received sentences out of proportion to the crime committed.
CSW commends this action by President Toledo and calls on him to continue to give his full support to judicial reform mechanisms to ensure the continued release and vindication of all innocent prisoners and the work of the Truth Commission, which investigates human rights atrocities committed by both the government and terrorist groups throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Tina Lambert, Advocacy Director of CSW, said: "Whilst we were thrilled to hear of the release of these innocent men it is vital that the international community urges President Toledo to make this pardoning process a priority of his government.
"Perhaps nowhere in the world can we see as clearly as in Peru, church agencies working to 'proclaim freedom for the prisoners' [Luke 4:18]. Our prayers and support for this work is vital."