Paris, 13 February 2003
Dear Mr. Dodero,
Reporters without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists are writing to inquire about the status of journalist Juan de Mata Jara Berrospi, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1994 on charges that he collaborated 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 maps and negatives showing where nine students and a professor of La Cantuta University, who had been murdered, had been buried, in his possession. 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 had been banned in 1989 by President Alan García’s government 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 they believed he was on the newspaper’s staff.
Allegedly, no one testified against Jara Berrospi at the trial. During the trial, the journalist denied any involvement with the terrorist group. He also claimed that the maps and the negatives had been placed anonymously in his yard. And according to several sources, a television station released the maps and negatives on television two days before the journalist was arrested.
On November 16, 1994, Jara was sentenced to 20 years in prison by an anonymous panel of judges and 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 result in his release.
Prior to his arrest, Jara Berrospi worked for several years as a producer for Radio Comas and wrote for the 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 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 organizations dedicated to protecting press freedom worldwide, Reporters without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists are 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.