About 80 Peruvian evangelicals claim they have been falsely convicted in the government's haste to break the back of terrorism.
Wuille Ruiz Figueroa's day in court before a ski-masked judge did not come until six months after antiterrorist police arrested him. The state produced no evidence against the Methodist lawyer, who worked as a counselor for incarcerated women. He pleaded innocent to charges of possessing subversive propaganda, but Peru's law against terrorism restricted his defense. In 1993, the judge found Ruiz, now 38, guilty. Peru's Supreme Court reaffirmed the 20-year sentence.
Ruiz's case is typical of the plight of evangelicals in Peru, who consider themselves victimized by antiterrorism laws. The case reminds lawyer Alfonso Wieland of the church's continuing need for a legal team to defend human rights. Wieland, 34-year-old executive director of the Peace and Hope Association, estimates that as many as a quarter of the approximately 4,000 people convicted of terrorism are innocent, among them some 80 evangelicals.
Since 1980, in its quest to impose communism, the Maoist Shining Path insurrectionist movement has been responsible for the deaths of more than 30,000 people in Peru. The terrorists often razed entire villages in poor rural areas populated by evangelicals. Nearly 90 percent of the country claims affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church.
TERRORIST EVANGELICALS? In 1984, leaders of Peru's evangelical alliance, conep, responded to the widespread suffering by founding the Peace and Hope Association as the alliance's social relief arm, providing emergency food, clothing, and legal help to hundreds of displaced Peruvians.
Concurrent with guerrilla violence, the army massacred hundreds of civilians suspected ...1
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