International PEN protests the continuing imprisonment of 20-year-old poet Melissa Rocío Patiño Hinostroza. Detained since February 29, 2008, Patiño is accused of being an accessory to terrorist activities, stemming from her alleged involvement with a left-wing political organization that the Peruvian government claims is linked to terrorist groups. The poet denies any political affiliations and, almost two months on, the authorities have still not produced any concrete evidence to substantiate the charges against her. Patiño is being held in a maximum-security prison with severely limited privileges, and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. PEN calls on the authorities either to substantiate the charges against Patiño or to dismiss the charges against her and release her immediately and unconditionally.

More information:

Statement by Peruvian human-rights organization Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos on Patiño’s case (Spanish)
Interview with Patiño (Spanish)
Interview with Patiño’s mother (Spanish)

Background Information

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. Patiño was subsequently charged with being an accomplice to terrorism on the basis of her attendance at the congress of Bolivarian Continental Coordinator (CCB), which the Peruvian authorities claim is linked to terrorist groups in Peru and abroad. The poet denies being involved in any political groups, and has said that her main motivation for attending was the opportunity to travel to Ecuador. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison.
Almost two months on, the authorities have yet to provide any concrete evidence to back up the terrorism charges against Patiño. According to her lawyer, accusations have been made on the basis of Patiño’s alleged membership in the Peruvian chapter of the CCB, her attendance of the CCB congress in Ecuador, and her participation in a march at the end of conference. According to a March 13 document issued by the public prosecutor, she is said to have partially covered her face and shouted anti-imperialist and pro-socialism slogans during the march, and is allegedly linked to graffiti criticizing Peruvian President Alan García. None of these activities can be said to amount to terrorist activities.
Patiño is currently detained in the Santa Monica maximum-security prison in Chorrillos, Lima. She is being held with convicted criminals, is locked up alone in her cell for 20 hours a day without access to radio or television, is not allowed to exercise outside or to speak to prisoners under a different regime, is only allowed visits from family members once a week, and has only very limited access to a public telephone.
The poet is said to be in low spirits and suffering from anxiety, which has caused related health problems such as stomach pain. She has reportedly not been provided with access to medial assistance or psychological evaluation. Although Patiño has not suffered any physical abuse, there are fears of reprisals against her following an April 20 visit by Patiño’s boyfriend, when he was ordered to leave after threatening to complain about a prison guard’s behaviour.
Patiño’s case has not been helped by inadequate legal representation in the early stages. However, a Peruvian NGO specializing in human-rights cases has now taken on the case. Patiño’s lawyer has requested that she be released a summons to appear in court; the case is due to resume in the first week of May.  The case has attracted widespread media attention and support in Peru and internationally. A petition requesting Patiño’s release to be presented to President Alan García has been signed by more than 1,000 writers and artists.

Write A Letter

  • to provide evidence to substantiate the charges of terrorism against the poet Melissa Rocío Patiño Hinostroza;
  • to order Patiño’s release pending the investigation into the charges, and, should they be founded, enable her to remain free pending trial;
  • alternately, 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
Lima, Peru
Fax: +51 1 311 3940
>> Send a message online
Salutation: Su Excelencia/Your Excellency
Minister of Justice
Dra. Rosario Fernández Figueroa
Ministra de Justicia
Ministerio de Justicia, Scipión LLona N° 350, Miraflores
Lima, Peru
Fax: + 51 1 422 3577
E-mail: [email protected]
Salutation: Señora Ministra/Dear Minister
Human Rights Ombudsman
Dra. Beatriz Merino
Defensoría del Pueblo
Jirón Ucayali 388
Lima, Peru
Fax: +51 1 426 7889
E-mail: [email protected]
Please send also appeals to diplomatic representatives of Peru in your country.

Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after May 24, 2008.