Peruvian archbishop withdraws defamation suit against journalist

Peruvian archbishop withdraws defamation suit against journalist

Pedro Salinas. Credit: ACI Prensa.
Pedro Salinas. Credit: ACI Prensa.

.- The Archbishop of Piura, Peru, José Antonio Eguren, announced that he will withdraw a complaint of aggravated defamation against journalist Pedro Salinas, who was found guilty and convicted in the first instance by a Peruvian court.

In a statement published April 24, the archbishop said that "today I have presented before the First Unipersonal Criminal Court of Piura my request for withdrawal of the complaint filed against the journalist Pedro Salinas Chacaltana for the crime of aggravated defamation towards me."

On April 22, the results of an April 8 judgment against Salinas were released. Judge Judith Cueva Calle sentenced Salinas to one year of probation and a fine of 80 thousand soles (about $24,000) for the crime of aggravated defamation against Archbishop José Antonio Eguren Anselmi.

In his statement, Eguren said the judgment provoked "a series of unjustified reactions, even within the Church , which I consider to impact a higher good, namely the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ."

"As a bishop, my first responsibility is to watch over the portion of the People of God entrusted to me. For this reason, without prejudice to the outcome of the judicial process, I have decided to renounce my right to defend my reputation and good name," he said.

The archbishop recalled that "my intention in presenting the lawsuit against Mr. Salinas, was to defend the fundamental right that we all have to the good name, to reflect on the value of the honor of the people, and to prevent those who would make false and offensive accusations without more foundation.”

Therefore, he said, "I trust that this decision will be understood in its proper dimension and can contribute to the unity of Peruvians and our Church, so important in the country’s current moment.”

The case of Pedro Salinas

Pedro Salinas is co-author of the book "Mitad Monjes, Mitad soldados," published in 2015, which recounts the sexual, physical and psychological abuses committed by Luis Fernando Figari, founder of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, and other members of the same group. Eguren himself is a member of the group.

On Aug. 15, 2018, Eguren filed an aggravated defamation lawsuit against Salinas for comparing him in a January article to the Chilean bishop Juan Barros, who was accused of covering up the sexual abuse of ex-priest Fernando Karadima.

According to Salinas, Eguren himself would have a part of the system of physical, psychological and sexual abuse within the Sodalitium.

In the article, Salinas also cited an Al Jazeera article that accused Eguren of illegal land dealings in the city of Piura.

The archbishop reiterated in a statement on April 14 that Salinas declined to rectify those accusations and "dismissed all the information that was sent to him, via a notary, which proved that what he said was false."

In the same statement, he said that he requested that Salinas not be incarcerated, and that any civil judgment imposed on the journalist be donated to a shelter unconnected with the Sodalitium.

Judgment is a "historical fact"

Percy García Cavero, Eguren’s attorney, told ACI Prensa April 24 that the judgment against Salinas is a "historical fact,” and that Eguren decided to withdraw from the lawsuit because "he understands that there are higher interests, that in the present moment of the Church, require him to renounce the right to defend his honor. "

"The purpose is obviously to maintain unity and avoid any type of damage to the process of reparation and accompaniment to the victims of the Sodalitium," the attorney explained.

In this regard, he noted that the withdrawal of the complaint "is not a victory for Salinas, because Archbishop Eguren is not suggesting that is was wrong for him to complain, on the contrary.”

"He recognizes that he had every right, that his honor has been tainted and that an independent judge said so," said Garcia Cavero.

The lawyer said that the issue "is legally settled," recalling that the "sentence issued by the judge of first instance is fully valid in terms of legal oath."

"It is important reference for journalists in terms of regular practice of the profession and I think it should be a resolution of analysis in different legal and journalistic academic environments," he said.

This quarrel was a "historical fact that will not disappear because there was a process and a valid pronouncement that determined that Mr. Salinas Chacaltana slandered Archbishop Eguren," he said.

"Although there is no penalty, civil compensation or any sentence, the sentence has a moral content," he added.

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae is a society of apostolic life founded in Peru to which the director of CNA, Alejandro Bermúdez, belongs.

This report was originally published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language sister agency. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Tags: Catholic News, Sodalitium Christianae Vitae