English PEN strongly protests the detention of the young Peruvian poet Melisssa Rocío Patiño Hinostroza on charges of terrorism. It is understood that the charges stem from her alleged involvement with a leftwing political organization, which the Peruvian government claims is linked to a terrorist group. Patiño denies any political affiliations and no concrete evidence has yet been produced to back up the charges.
Melisssa Rocío Patiño Hinostroza, a poet and business administration student, is a member of ‘Círculo del sur’ (Southern Circle) poetry group in Lima. She helps to run a poetry programme on the radio, as well as running cultural activities with young people.
On 29 February 2008, Melisssa Rocio Patino Hinostroza was arrested along with six other individuals in Tumbes, a small border town on the border with Ecuador. The group were returning by bus from Quito, where they had attended the second congress of the Bolivarian Continental Coordinator (Coordinadora Continental Boliviariana – CCB) from 24 to 28 February. They were subsequently charged with ‘Affiliation and Collaboration with Terrorism’, apparently on the basis of their attendance at the CCB meeting. Initially detained in Tumbes at the Counterterrorism Division (División Contra el Terrorismo – DINCOTE), Patiño was transferred to Santa Monica maximum security prison in Chorrillos, Lima, on 15 March, where she is still being held.
Patiño’s family has been allowed to make regular visits and report that she is being well treated and is in good health. Nevertheless, if convicted, she could face up to 20 years in prison, according to local press reports.
CCB is a public forum that brings together civil society organizations in support of promoting the ‘Bolivarian revolution’ (a political concept entailing Latin American unity and socialism inspired by the current Venezuelan model) across the continent (see http://www.conbolivar.org/). The congress, which was reportedly held with the knowledge and consent of the Ecuadorian authorities, attracted some 800 delegates from across Latin America. According to local press reports, the Peruvian government has accused CCB members of planning to sabotage the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings to be held in Peru later this year. Some participants at the CCB congress had reportedly discussed organizing protests against the Latin American-European Union (ALC-UE) and APEC meetings planned for May and November 2008 respectively. Following the arrests, some Peruvian officials reportedly also claimed that the Venezuelan government was supporting CCB as well as the FARC guerrilla group in Colombia.
Two of the six individuals detained along with Patiño are said to be former members of the Peruvian Marxist rebel group Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru (MRTA). One of them, Roque González La Rosa, has reportedly served a prison sentence of several years for belonging to the MRTA, and since her release two years ago has reportedly been organizing workshops and events at the university where Patiño studies (Universidad Mayor de San Marcos in Lima). The government alleges that the Peruvian chapter of CCB has links with MRTA.
However, the poet’s presence in the bus carrying former MRTA members appears to have been at best circumstantial. Patiño and her family have denied that she belongs to or has ever had any involvement in any political groups, insisting that her interests are purely cultural. According to her family, she attended the congress after a colleague at the radio station where she works (also a member of the Southern Circle poetry group) passed the invitation on to her as he could not himself attend due to work commitments. Her main motivation for attending was the in fact the opportunity to travel to Ecuador. According to our information, the Peruvian authorities have not yet produced any evidence of Patiño’s alleged involvement in terrorist activities.
Patiño’s case has received considerable support in Peru and internationally. A peaceful protest in March by Peruvian writers and artists outside the Counterterrorism Division in Lima was broken up by police, who fired water canons at the small crowd before they were able to carry out the planned poetry reading. The sculptor Víctor Delfín is quoted as saying: “Repression is being stepped up… Today they fire water at us – tomorrow it will be bullets.”
For information on attacks on the press in Peru in 2008, see http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=20541
Please send appeals:
Calling on the Peruvian authorities either to provide evidence to back up the charges of terrorism against the young poet Melisssa Rocío Patiño Hinostroza, or alternatively to release her immediately and unconditionally.
Dr. Alan García Pérez
Presidente de la República del Perú
Jr. de la Unión S/N 1ra. Cuadra, Cercado de Lima, Lima, Peru
Fax: 51 1 311 3940
Salutation: Su Excelencia/ Your Excellency
Dra. Rosario Fernández Figueroa
Ministra de Justicia
Ministerio de Justicia, Scipión LLona N° 350, Miraflores, Lima, Peru
Fax: 51 1 422 3577
Salutation: Señora Ministra/Dear Minister
It may be more effective, however, to send the above appeals via the Peruvian representative in London:
His Excellency Ricardo V Luna
52 Sloane Street
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/peruyoungjournalistdetainedonterrorismcharges/