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Peru30 July 2002

Journalist faces possible arrest

Reporters without borders has protested the 25 July 2002 order for the capture of Alvaro Vargas Llosa. A complaint was filed against the journalist for "defamation". Vargas Llosa failed to appear in court when previously summoned and is now considered a "criminal at large". "Detaining Alvaro Vargas Llosa would set a dangerous precedent for press freedom in Peru," declared Reporters without borders Secretary-General Robert Ménard in a letter to Oscar Víctor Alfaro Álvarez, chair of Peru’s Supreme Court. RSF asked the magistrate to do all he can so that the warrant for the journalist’s arrest is annulled and the journalist is not sentenced to imprisonment. Moreover, given that Vargas Llosa has not been served a summons or notified of the warrant for his arrest, Reporters without borders urged Alfaro Álvarez to ensure that due process is followed.

Ménard recalled that in a January 2000 report, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression Abid Hussain stated that "imprisonment as punishment for the peaceful expression of an opinion constitutes a serious violation of human rights."

According to information gathered by Reporters without borders, journalist Vargas Llosa was declared a "prisoner at large" on 25 July. In November 2001, businessman Adam Pollack filed a complaint against the journalist for "defamation" and "committing crimes against honour". According to Iván Paredes, the plaintiff’s lawyer, warrant for his arrest was issued because the journalist, who has been in hiding for several months, failed to appear in court after being summoned six times. On 22 February, Judge Guido M. Vera, of Lima’s Eleventh Court, who was in charge of the case against Vargas Llosa, issued a summons against Vargas Llosa. Pollack had asked that the journalist be sentenced to three years in prison and fined US$1 million. In November, Vargas Llosa gave statements to the press pointing to alleged irregularities committed by the Peruvian government in connection with a military contract. Vargas Llosa stated that Pollack took part in the negotiations, was close to President Alejandro Toledo, and called for an investigation into the operation.

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