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Wed, 5 Feb 1997 09:07:27 GMT

(8.8.4/8.7.3) with ESMTP id GAA10862 for <a-infos@tao.ca>; Wed, 5 Feb 1997 06:51:27 GMT Received: from localhost (ats@localhost) by locust.cic.net (8.8.5/8.7.3) with SMTP id BAA29770; Wed, 5 Feb 1997 01:52:00 -0500 (EST) Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1997 01:51:59 -0500 (EST) From: Arm The Spirit <ats@locust.cic.net> To: A-Infos <a-infos@tao.ca> cc: Love and Rage List <loveandrage@burn.ucsd.edu> Subject: Horrific Prison Conditions Are Killing The Comrades Of Tupac Amaru Rebels Message-ID: <Pine.NEB.3.95.970205014947.29722B-100000@locust.cic.net> MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII Sender: a-infos-request@tao.ca Precedence: list Reply-To: a-infos-d@tao.ca

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Horrific Prison Conditions Are Killing The Comrades Of Tupac Amaru Rebels

LIMA, Peru - When Nestor Cerpa, the leader of the small band of Tupac Amaru guerrillas who have taken over the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima, gets on the walkie-talkie to talk to reporters, he always brings the conversation to his group's essential demand: the release of hundreds of Tupac Amaru guerrillas from Peru's prisons.

Unless that demand is addressed, says Cerpa, there is no hope for the release of the 72 hostages he's holding inside the house.

Several times during the 49-day siege the rebels have fired what police describe as warning shots into the air. Early Tuesday morning, several shots were again fired inside the compound, although this time the rebels provided a reason: The shots were fired in memory of six Peruvians who died in a violent factory takeover 18 years ago.

Cerpa, who was part of that takeover, has repeatedly said he will wait as long as it takes to get his comrades out of what he calls "the tomb cells" of Peru's prisons.

While President Alberto Fujimori has ruled that out, he did tell reporters Tuesday that he hoped direct talks with the rebels would start as early as this week. Fujimori's comment came after a meeting with President Bill Clinton in Washington on Monday and a Saturday summit in Canada with Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.

Released hostages say Cerpa has told them he realizes he will never get other members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, known here by its Spanish acronym, MRTA, released from prison. What Cerpa really wants, they say, is to improve prison conditions for his comrades.

The conditions can be harsh.

Some members of the MRTA are serving sentences of life without parole. The top leadership of the MRTA and of the once-more-powerful Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, are serving out their sentences at a naval base outside Lima. They live in solitary confinement in cells where they have to ask a guard to turn on the water from the outside whenever they want to wash up or flush the toilet.

Lori Berenson is an American who has been convicted of treason by a Peruvian military court, which found her guilty of conspiring with other members of the MRTA to take over Peru's Congress.

Berenson is serving out her sentence of life without parole in a prison in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca, at an altitude of more than 12,000 feet. Her lawyer, Grimaldo Achahui, says her fingertips are cracking because of poor circulation caused by the cold.

Achahui says he visits Berenson every two or three months. Since the Tupac Amaru hostage-takers took the Japanese ambassador's residence Dec. 17, lawyers have been the only people allowed to visit prisoners convicted under Peru's anti-terrorism laws.

Achahui is appealing Berenson's conviction. He's trying to get her sentence reduced, and to get her a retrial in a civilian court. He says the acts she was accused of do not fit the definition of treason, but instead constitute the crime of terrorism, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

If Achahui is able to get Berenson a civilian trial, he'll get more time to present her defense, he says. In Berenson's military trial, Achahui was given less than three hours in court to present her case.

Achahui says he has not heard from the Supreme Military Tribunal since May 1996.

Berenson could be moved to a prison at an even higher altitude, along with a woman who was Nestor Cerpa's companion and the mother of his two children.

At more than 15,000 feet, the prison at Chacapalca is an eight-hour drive from the nearest village. It is surrounded by mine fields. There is room for just 100 prisoners, all of whom are serving their time in solitary confinement. Achahui says that sending Berenson there would amount to "practically killing her".

Visits to Chapacalca would also be difficult for the International Committee of the Red Cross, whose main task in Peru is to visit imprisoned members of the MRTA and Shining Path.

"Not even the guards want to go there," Achahui says.

(Source: MSNBC, http://www.msnbc.com)

---- Free All Political Prisoners! MRTA Solidarity Page - http://burn.ucsd.edu/~ats/mrta.htm


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