Peruvian army Col. David de Vinatea's fight for justice received another setback August 14 when a Lima judge denied the imprisoned evangelical's bid for early release. Judge Maria Castro of the Third Court, which only hears narco-trafficking cases, ruled that de Vinatea is ineligible for parole. De Vinatea's wife told Compass that her husband plans to appeal the ruling. Christian and legal observers, citing many irregularities in the decorated army officer's case since his 1995 arrest, believe de Vinatea is innocent of drug-trafficking crimes for which he is serving 16 years in Lima's Lurigancho Prison.The case remains riddled with irregularities, reports de Vinatea's wife, Chely, who said that the judge cited the national police's written "organic law" in ruling that de Vinatea was ineligible for early release because of the drug-trafficking conviction. Police who are convicted of narco-trafficking are not eligible for parole. De Vinatea, however, never served in Peru's police force."The judge is wrong in applying a law that pertains to the national police," Mrs. de Vinatea said. "My husband is in the army."The former colonel's family maintains that Peruvian law holds no reason for denying de Vinatea parole. The ruling is even more confusing to Mrs. de Vinatea, who says that justice officials who issued opinions in the case did not concur in their reasons for denying parole. One week before Judge Castro's ruling, the prosecutor recommended that the judge deny de Vinatea's parole. Among Mrs. de Vinatea's questions: Why did the judge begin requesting documents from de Vinatea in December if the law forbade his release? "I don't know why they did this," she lamented. "Nobody's going to say." She's not formally allowed to ask the judge such questions."According to the judge, he'll have to stay in prison 11 more years," Mrs. de Vinatea said. "May God forgive her."The colonel's wife acknowledged that the situation seems grim. "They're still inventing things," she said. "How long have we held out hope? This just won't end. I don't know what to do."Still, Mrs. de Vinatea does not want to assume the worst concerning the strange twists the case has taken in the five years that her husband has been incarcerated. Most experts agree that Peru's justice system is not independent, and that the executive branch often advises how it rules."I want to believe that this is owed simply to incompetence," Mrs. de Vinatea said. She refuses to take the case to the national press, fearing reprisals, especially against her husband. "We're going to keep fighting with the only arms we have," she said, referring to faith and prayer.The colonel's lawyer will appeal the ruling to Peru's Superior Court, a three-judge tribunal that by law must rule within 15 days. Mrs. de Vinatea said that, realistically, she expects an answer later this year.While the family has lost all faith in the judicial system, their faith in God remains strong. "We have nobody else to turn to, but we have to continue," Mrs. de Vinatea said. "Life goes on. We can't forget God is permitting this for some reason. We trust in the Lord. Maybe one day here or in heaven we'll know why all this is happening."Copyright © Compass Direct 2000

Related Elsewhere

More on David de Vinatea is available from Open Doors.The U.S. State Department's 1999 Report on International Religious Freedom and Report on Human Rights for Peru are available at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom site.Visit the homepage of the Embassy of Peru.The U.S. Library of Congress offers a country study of Peru.Previous Christianity Today stories about Peru include:Peru's Christians Oppose Presidential Vow to End Pardons | More than 300 unjustly accused of terrorist involvement will remain in jail, say critics. (Dec. 16, 1999) Peruvian Evangelical Released from Prison | Methodist Ruiz granted full pardon. (July 13, 1998) Imprisoned Evangelicals Dispute Accusations of Terrorism | 80 Peruvian Christians say they are innocent. (Feb. 9, 1998) "Your Sins Shall Be White as Yucca" | Wycliffe missionaries Gene and Marie Scott gave nearly 40 years of their lives translating the New Testament for a small tribe in the jungles of Peru. (Oct. 27, 1997)Stories from various media sources about the politic climate in Peru include:In riot aftermath, Peru braces for tough tactics | Christian Science Monitor (Jul 31, 2000) Lima quiet after protests; Fujimori appoints Cabinet | CNN (Jul 29, 2000) Peru Inaugural Incites Protests Against Fujimori | Washington Post (Jul 29, 2000) Fujimori Takes Oath as Protests Blanket Area in Smoke | NY Times (Jul 29, 2000)