Peruvian Bishops Defend Lima's Cardinal

Archbishop Cipriani Denies Knowing of ’92 Killings

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LIMA, Peru, SEPT. 3, 2002 ( The Peruvian episcopal conference defended the archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, who was called to testify by the judiciary in a gesture seen as vengeful.

Anti-corruption Judge José Luis Lecaros summoned the cardinal last Wednesday as a witness in a case, after hearing the statements of former Justice Minister Alberto Bustamante.

Bustamante claimed he heard ex-spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos, then a presidential adviser, say that the cardinal had knowledge of the 1992 killings by a paramilitary group of nine students and a professor of La Cantuta University.

The summons took place 48 hours after the cardinal criticized apparent abuses by the Ministry of Justice in the fight against corruption. The local press has described the summons as an act of “vengeance.”

Archbishop Cipriani dismissed the accusations Saturday during a celebration attended by Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, and said he would not let his dignity or that of the Catholic Church be “trampled.”

Revealing that he would respond to the summons to give evidence, the cardinal said: “I will be present wherever it is necessary; and today the press wants the trials to be carried out in public. I am not at all involved in what has been said.”

The bishops’ conference published a statement entitled “Thou Shalt Not Lie or Give False Witness,” in which it criticizes the judicial summons.

“An investigation is necessary of the breach of trust which has allowed the reserved testimony of a former Minister to be made public, damaging the honor and good name of Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani,” the statement says. “Whoever is capable of breaking the reservations that a judicial process calls for, makes himself unfit to be a member of a court.”

“The state of law calls for the autonomy of the state powers, and that each one of them be bound to the Constitution and laws,” it continues. “It is fundamental that the judiciary not only be just and effective, but also that it win the confidence of society in the exercise of its functions, by its impartiality, without respect of persons, and by respecting the reservations called for by each case during a trial.”

The archbishop of Lima also published a statement in which he rejected “the campaign initiated primarily by El Comercio Publishing Group, which manipulates information, including reference to alleged private documents of the judiciary, which implies a very serious offense, with distortions that affect the honor of the cardinal and lead to a false perception of his person, trying to damage his good name and good reputation.”

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