Twenty-Year-Old Poet Detained on Terrorism Charges
International PEN strongly protests the detention since February 29, 2008, of the young poet Melissa Rocío Patiño Hinostroza on charges of terrorism. It is understood that the charges stem from her alleged involvement with a left-wing political organization that the Peruvian government claims is linked to a terrorist group. Patiño denies any political affiliations and no concrete evidence has been produced to back up the charges. If convicted, she reportedly faces up to 20 years in prison. PEN calls on the authorities either to substantiate the charges against Patiño or to bring about her immediate and unconditional release.
Melissa Rocío Patiño Hinostroza, 20, poet and business-administration student, is a member of the Círculo del sur poetry group in Lima and runs a poetry radio program and other cultural activities with young people. She was arrested with six other individuals in Tumbes, a small border town on the border of Ecuador, on February 29, 2008. The seven were returning by bus from Quito, where they had attended the second congress of the Bolivarian Continental Coordinator (CCB). They were charged with "Affiliation and Collaboration with Terrorism," apparently on the basis of their attendance at the CCB meeting. Initially detained in Tumbes, Patiño was transferred to Santa Monica maximum-security prison in Chorrillos, Lima, on March 15, where she is still being held. 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 to promote the "Bolivarian revolution," which supports Latin American unity and socialism inspired by the current Venezuelan model. 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 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 and APEC meetings planned for 2008.
Peruvian officials reportedly claimed that the Venezuelan government was supporting CCB as well as the FARC guerrilla group in Colombia. Two of the six individuals detained 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, 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 poetry group) passed the invitation on to her as he could not attend due to work commitments, and her main motivation for attending was the opportunity to travel to Ecuador. The Peruvian authorities have not 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.”
Patiño’s family has been allowed to make regular visits and report that she is being treated well and is in good health.
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calling on the Peruvian authorities either to substantiate the charges of terrorism against the poet Melissa Rocío Patiño Hinostroza or to release her immediately and unconditionally.
Send Your Letter To
Dr. Alan García Pérez
Presidente de la República del Perú
Jr. de la Unión S/N 1ra. Cuadra, Cercado de Lima
Fax: +51 1 311 3940
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Salutation: Su Excelencia/Your Excellency
Minister of Justice
Dra. Rosario Fernández Figueroa
Ministra de Justicia
Ministerio de Justicia, Scipión LLona N° 350, Miraflores
Fax: + 51 1 422 3577
E-mail: [email protected]
Salutation: Señora Ministra/Dear Minister
Please send also appeals to diplomatic representatives of Peru in your country.
Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after May 1, 2008.