LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peruvians reacted with widespread anger to a Supreme Court ruling that could allow the imminent release of military death squad members who took part in notorious 1990s killings under the government of Alberto Fujimori.
In the 3-2 ruling, seven members of the so-called Colina death squad created under the auspices of then-spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos may now apply immediately for parole, legal experts say.
The court also overturned the aggravated murder conviction and 15-sentence of Montesino's army intelligence chief, Alberto Pinto, who Peru prisons spokesman Jose Luise Perez said was expected to be released on Tuesday.
In its ruling Friday regarding 25 killings of which the Colina squad was convicted, including the slaying of an 8-year-old boy, the five-judge panel said they were not "crimes against humanity" but simple murders.
Defendants convicted of crimes against humanity in Peru are not eligible for parole. Those convicted of murder are eligible, after serving two-thirds of their sentence.
Friday's decision trimmed the prison sentences of 15 former military men as well as Montesinos, who as national security adviser to Fujimori helped him maintain power by thwarting the rule of law through violence, bribery and intimidation. Most of the 15 had their sentences reduced from 25 to 20 years.
Writing for the court, Judge Javier Villa Stein said the men could not be made to serve sentences for crimes against humanity because the prosecutor in the case had not specifically sought to convict them on that charge. The prosecutor refutes that, however, as do court documents filed in 2005.
Montesinos, 67, will not be eligible for parole any time soon. He has been convicted and sentenced for a series of other crimes including running guns to Colombian rebels.
Peruvian courts have found that the Colina group committed 53 murders of alleged leftist rebel sympathizers and other civilians from 1991 to 1996 with the knowledge of high-ranking officials in the Fujimori government.
The rulings determined that the Fujimori government gave the group state funds, medical insurance, automobiles, weapons and training.
Legal expert Jose Balcazar-Quiroz lamented the conversion of systematic killings ordered by Fujimori's government from crimes against humanity to simple murders.
"The Colina now become like a group of crazies who one day said, 'Let's go kill on our own,'" the Catholic University professor said. Continued...