Peru Rebels Reiterate Demand That Comrades Be Freed

Arm The Spirit (
Mon, 21 Apr 1997 21:15:13 -0400 (EDT)


Peru Rebels Reiterate Demand That Comrades Be Freed

LIMA, April 21 (AFP) - The head of the leftist rebels holding 72 hostages at the Japanese ambassador's residence here said their original demand holds: they want all 440 imprisoned comrades set free. Otherwise, Nestor Cerpa Cartolini said in a walkie-talkie interview, armed Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) rebels will continue holding hostages seized in a December 17 cocktail party. Cerpa was reacting to press reports over the weekend that the MRTA had downscaled its demands, settling instead on freedom for 30 key hostages, including MRTA founder Victor Polay and American Lori Berenson. The 30 imprisoned rebels would presumably be set free for health reasons. "That was just journalistic speculation," Cerpa said in an interview late Sunday. President Alberto Fujimori has refused to talk about releasing prisoners, and the two men have been playing a high-stakes waiting game that shows no immediate sign of ending. Cerpa also wants the government to improve the country's notoriously bleak prison conditions. During the interview Cerpa also said he will now let Red Cross doctors inside the residence only once a week, on Saturday, instead of several times a week. No hostage suffered serious health problems, he said, but he wanted to "prevent unease" among relatives of the elite Bolivian, Japanese and Peruvian relatives. Red Cross officials have said that the hostages' physical health is generally good. In Geneva, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Cornelio Sommaruga said he could not understand why a Red Cross official here was expelled last week. The ICRC chief said he regretted the incident which is "without explanation for the moment". A pro-government newspaper, Expreso, alleged Sunday that ICRC deputy director for Peru, Juan Pedro Schaerer, who was asked to leave in a note from the Peruvian mission in Geneva, had given information to an MRTA spokesman in Europe. The ICRC has been helping facilitate negotiations between the rebels and the government since direct talks broke down in mid-March. An ICRC official specializing in Latin America, Reito Meister, was due to arrive in Lima Monday to discuss the Schaerer case.

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