Cablegate: President Toledo Blasts Judiciary's Handling Of

Published: Tue 9 Nov 2004 10:00 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: LIMA 5163
1. (U) SUMMARY: President Toledo harshly criticized the
judiciary's handling of the trial of Sendero Luminoso (SL)
founder Abimael Guzman and other SL leaders in a national
address 11/6, after Guzman and his co-defendants were
permitted to disrupt the opening of their oral trial the
previous day. The President vowed that no terrorists will be
released while his government is in office, called for
"summary" trials of terrorists, and announced the
appointment of a new State Attorney (Procurador) for
Terrorism who would seek to recuse the three judges presiding
over the trial. The televised spectre of Guzman and his
cronies reaffirming their terrorist actions and showing no
remorse for the estimated 69,000 deaths resulting from SL's
rebellion caused widespread public revulsion, and politicians
from across the political spectrum quickly backed the
President. While Toledo may have scored some political
points, his intervention could well be seized on by the SL
defendants as grounds for a future appeal to the
Inter-American Court of Human Rights. END SUMMARY.
2. (U) The first of many retrials of Sendero Luminoso
founder Abimael Guzman (Reftel) lasted half-an-hour before it
was suspended after Guzman and four of the 18 defendants
stood up and began chanting revolutionary slogans. Presiding
judge Dante Terrel, President of the three-member "A"
Antiterrorism Chamber, appeared to contribute to the chaos
through his indecision, alternatively admitting then
prohibiting television cameras and failing to ensure proper
decorum in the courtroom. In the end, Terrel chose to
suspend the session, with the next hearing scheduled for
3. (U) President Toledo, in a television address on 11/6,
promised an "iron fist" against SL, called for "summary"
trials of SL terrorists, criticized the court for permitting
Guzman to use the proceedings for propaganda purposes,
announced that he would appoint a new State Attorney
(Procurador) for Terrorism cases and that this official would
seek to recuse the three-judge panel and would demand life
sentences for the defendants. The President also declared
that stricter security measures would be applied to the SL
leaders in the Callao Navy Base prison, including the use of
interview booths with security windows to prevent personal
contact between the defendants and their attorneys/visitors.
(Note: The previous Anti-Terrorism Procurador resigned
several months ago. The interview booths were removed
earlier this year after Guzman and other SL prisoners went on
a hunger strike. Press articles over the past month claimed
that Guzman has been running Shining Path remnants from his
jail cell, facilitated by liberal visitation policies. There
have been previous calls for Judge Terrel's recusal, based on
his representation of terrorist defendants in the early
1990's. Foreign Ministry legal experts told Poloff on 11/8,
that the GOP can move for the recusal of the entire
three-judge panel, but that a final decision will be up to
the judges themselves or to the Supreme Court. End Note).
4. (U) Media coverage of the opening session was
sensationalized and public revulsion widespread at the sight
of Guzman and his co-defendants publicly reaffirming their
revolution and its bloody consequences. Most press
commentary backed the President's criticism of the judiciary,
although some debated whether his intervention constituted
interference with the Judicial Branch. Pro-GOP and
opposition politicians supported Toledo's announcements,
although APRA leader Alan Garcia added that the President
would leave a resurgent SL as a legacy.
5. (U) The GOP, on 11/8, announced the appointment of
Guillermo Cabala, ex-director of Office of Control over
Magistrates (OCMA), the Peruvian agency that investigates
judicial misconduct, as the new Procurador for Terrorism in
the Interior Ministry. Cabala is a respected jurist but
critics have questioned whether, at 76 years of age, he might
be a bit long in the tooth for such an important
6. (U) Legal experts, such as former Foreign Minister Diego
Garcia Sayan, have pointed out constitutional and procedural
impediments to holding summary trials or recusing judges once
a trial has begun. Cabala sought to soften Toledo's remarks
by saying they should be put in the context of the
president's wish for a speedy and efficient trial. Cabala
criticized the inexperience of Judge Terrel, questioned his
impartiality, noting that Terrel represented terrorists in
the past, and said he would pursue a legal way to have the
judges recused.
6. (SBU) COMMENT: President Toledo notched up political
points with his virulent denunciation of the judiciary's
handling of the terrorism retrial and announcement of
remedial measures. The outpouring of public revulsion at the
SL leaders' antics demonstrates that public rejection of
Peru's terrorist legacy remains strong. Toledo's
intervention, however, could well be used by the defendants
as evidence of improper Executive Branch interference with
the Judicial Branch in any appeal to the Inter-American Court
of Human Rights; Guzman's attorney has already stated to the
press that he would appeal the court's decision to
international courts. END COMMENT.
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