Garcia 'mindful' of Peruvian's rights in US spy-ring case

1st July 2010, Comments 0 comments

President Alan Garcia Thursday warned that his government would keep close tabs on a Peruvian suspect's rights after she was arrested in the United States and accused of taking part in an alleged Russian spy ring.

"What everybody must know is that the Peruvian government will be always mindful that no law is broken and due process is served in the case of a citizen that is keeping her Peruvian nationality," Garcia told reporters.

Peruvian journalist Vicky Pelaez, 55, was among 10 suspects the United States said Monday were arrested and accused of infiltrating policymaking circles and reporting back to Moscow, in an FBI probe lasting more than a decade.

The US Justice Department said the "deep-cover" suspects were suspected of seeking details of US nuclear weapons and foreign policy, in a Cold War-style espionage saga that threatens to upset US-Russian relations.

Pelaez, who has worked in New York for 20 years and is notorious for a kidnap scandal in Peru, was to appear Thursday before a court hearing in New York.

Garcia called on the Peruvian ambassador and consul general in the United States to "do all that is needed to make sure due process is served" for Pelaez.

The president said the charges against Pelaez were "very serious, involving money laundering, taking part in a spy ring, that must be proven by (US) prosecutors and the court."

If the charges are not "adequately justified," he added, US authorities "will have to retract.... Due process is fundamental and that's what we are demanding."

However, he said: "I don't think US justice is playing tricks, raising a smoke screen" in the spy-ring case.

Pelaez's mother and sister traveled from southern Cusco to Lima to meet with Foreign Ministry officials and press Peruvian authorities to help their relative mount her legal defense.

Pelaez and her husband, Juan Lazaro, were arrested Sunday in the New York suburb of Yonkers.

US prosecutors, in a letter Thursday urging a New York judge to deny bail to Lazaro, said Lazaro had confessed after his arrest to working for Russia's SVR foreign intelligence service.

In the letter, prosecutors outline how Lazaro admitted in a "lengthy post-arrest statement" to working for the "Service" -- an abbreviation used in official court documents for Russia's SVR, a successor of the Cold War-era KGB.

They also said Lazaro was not the suspect's real name, and that he refused to provide his true identity.

Pelaez in Peru is best known for her opinion columns, which often criticize the US government.

She left Peru after making her name at the Frecuencia Latina TV channel where she was renowned for her aggressive style.

In 1985 she made headlines for being kidnapped by and then interviewing the communist Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.

In a murky affair, Frecuencia Latina later sacked her for allegedly fabricating the kidnapping.

Pelaez emigrated to the United States soon afterward. She works for New York Spanish-language daily La Prensa.

© 2010 AFP

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