Peru Courts Order Editor Arrest in Spy Chief Probe

Reuters -- 19 January 2001

by Alistair Scrutton

LIMA, Peru - Peru's courts have ordered the arrest on corruption charges of the editor of a leading newspaper amid reports he appears in a video taking $2 million from ex-President Alberto Fujimori's fugitive spy chief.

A judge ordered on Thursday night the arrest of Eduardo Calmell del Solar, editor of Expreso, a newspaper which was one of Fujimori's strongest supporters before corruption scandals forced the disgraced ex-president out of office in November.

Calmell del Solar has said he is innocent but his whereabouts are not known and he has not yet been detained.

It was the highest profile arrest order since prosecutors shook Peru's establishment by revealing last week they were combing hundreds of videos secretly filmed by spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos of meetings with top public figures.

Montesinos was the focus of a bribery scandal which eventually ended Fujimori's sacking last year. That scandal was sparked by a video of Montesinos allegedly bribing a lawmaker.

The ex-spy chief is accused of skimming profits off arms and drugs deals during Fujimori's ten year government and he faces charges from money laundering to running death squads.

State prosecutors have about 700 videos confiscated from the house of Montesinos and local media said a presidential candidate, media owners, bank heads and supreme court judges were among those shown on tape.

Courts have not made available images or transcripts of the videos and commentators noted that appearing on film with Montesinos proves no wrongdoing.

'Political Persecution' Says Expreso

``Political Persecution!'' screamed Expreso's headline on Friday, planting a portrait of its editor on the front page. ''Who will be the next victim of the terror?'' asked the paper's editorial.

Other local newspapers and media outlets have alleged the editor was filmed with Montesinos and ex-army general Luis Delgado in a deal involving over $2 million.

Courts also ordered Delgado's arrest on Thursday night. While the charges against Delgado and Calmell del Solar are over corruption, the specific details are unknown.

Expreso was such a vocal supporter of Fujimori's government that the opposition accused the newspaper of being under the control of Montesinos's intelligence services.

President Valentin Paniagua's transitional government has pushed an anti-corruption drive and a myriad of courts and congressional commissions are probing Montesinos,

Under Fujimori, Peru gained a record as one of the worst offenders of press freedoms with television stations seen as under Montesinos' control.

Witness said the spy chief fled the country in October.