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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 02:21 GMT 03:21 UK
Peru spy chief faces murder charge
Commandos at Japanese Embassy, Lima in 1997
The siege commandos were heroes to many
A judge in Peru has order former spy chief Vladimiro Montesino to stand trial on charges of murdering three rebels during the Japanese embassy siege in 1997.

The three were allegedly killed by military commandos after they surrendered during the rescue of 71 hostages from the Japanese ambassador's residence.

 Vladimiro Montesinos
Former spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos is awaiting trial on other charges

The former Joint Chiefs of Staff head, Nicolas Hermoza, is also indicted, along with 16 soldiers and another official.

Mr Montesinos, the close ally of former President Alberto Fujimori, is also facing wide-ranging corruption charges.

Mr Fujimori fled to Japan in November 2000, and in the absence of an extradition agreement he seems unlikely to return to Peru.

National heroes

The Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement rebels had held 72 VIP hostages for more than four months until the commandos stormed in.

The rescue made them national heroes.

The murder charges have aroused indignation among some government officials and former hostages, who say the soldiers were just carrying out their duty.

All 14 rebels, one hostage and two commandos died in the daring operation, in which soldiers burst into the residence from secret underground tunnels.

The military maintained that all 14 guerrillas were killed in initial bomb blasts and the ensuing fire-fight, but prosecutor Richard Saavedra says three guerrillas were executed after they surrendered.

Witnesses and former hostages say they saw the dead rebels Herma Luz Melendez, Victor Peceros and Eduardo "Tito" Cruz taken into custody alive.

A forensic report on the rebels' exhumed bodies has not yet been released, but sources close to the investigation say at least eight rebels were incapacitated then shot from behind.


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