“The agreement was imposed on Vicky Peláez,” says her attorney - español
Carlos Moreno, lawyer for the Peruvian journalist Vicky Peláez, said that the accord by which his client confessed to being a spy for Russia was “imposed” by Washington and Moscow and “has nothing to do with the evidence” available to the prosecution.
Shortly after the end of the court hearing against the ten people accused of making up a network of Russian spies, in which the group’s expulsion was decided, Moreno told BBC Mundo that his client had no other option but to accept.
Moreno guesses that the expulsion to Russian will be hardest for Peláez, since she’s the only one in the group who is not a Russian citizen and she must leave her journalistic career behind, something that according to the attorney created “an environment of political persecution” against his client.
Is the defense satisfied with the resolution of the case?
The resolution of this case has nothing to do with the evidence, but with an agreement imposed on the prosecutor, the defense attorneys, and even the Southern District Court by the United States. It is an agreement between the U.S. government and the Russian Federation.
You say that the executive branch interfered with the judicial process?
That’s my interpretation, because when there’s a negotiation process between the prosecution and the defense attorneys, the process involves just those two parties; there’s no third or fourth participant. In this case, there was a third participant: the U.S. government, not represented by the prosecution but rather, by the executive branch. And there were also representatives from the Russian Federation.
That’s why it would be erroneous to conclude that the declaration of guilty by these people corresponds to the weight or the quality or the strength of the evidence presented against them, because it’s not like that. I’m not saying that there’d been no infraction of the law by the accused, including Vicky Peláez. But I believe that it is an imposed agreement that did not take into consideration the differences between the accused, for example.
If that’s the case, why didn’t [the defense team] insist on Vicky Peláez’s innocence as you’d been maintaining?
Our work as attorneys for Vicky Peláez is to ensure her rights are respected and in this sense, try to achieve the least complicated resolution for her. We considered that among the possibilities, the chances of her emerging innocent were minimal, because in the political mental state that exists in the U.S., even without resounding proof against Vicky Peláez or Juan Lázaro, I believe they would have been found guilty.
But couldn’t you prove innocence?
Definitely not. In the United States we have a jury system. The guilt or innocence of Vicky Peláez would be determined by a jury. The problem is that the current environment in the U.S. is of such a magnitude that if you were to accuse the Pope of being an agent of a foreign government, the Pope would be found guilty, independent of whether there was any evidence whatsoever. When we spoke with Vicky Peláez, we analyzed these factors and the joint conclusion, by her and the other two attorneys who worked with me on the defense, was that under such a situation, an accusation of this nature would be very difficult, if not impossible to overcome.
So this would be the best solution for Peláez?
Unfortunately, yes. But understand that of all the accused she was the one who had the most to lose. All of the accused, except for Vicky Peláez, are Russians who are returning to their country. But Peláez has a journalistic career spanning more than 20 years. All that ended today. She will now have to start from zero wherever she ends up living, whether in Peru or any other country.
How difficult was it then to get her to accept the agreement?
The conclusion that we reached with her is that even if the attorney were not to present any evidence at all, Peláez would have been found guilty. Because this is basically a kind of political persecution, but not in the sense that there’s a government acting to persecute one. There’s a political persecution that happens by osmosis because the jury, made up of ordinary people, is under hypnosis. If the government says that a car is a television, then a car is a television. (…) In cases with political nuances, such as that of Vicky Peláez, the operative assumption is that of guilt, contrary to what the Constitution says.
These political nuances would arise because of her columns for El Diario-La Prensa that were critical of the government?
I don’t have the least doubt. With her political position and with the criticism she directed toward U.S. foreign policy in many cases.
But she’s not the only journalist who questions the U.S. government. There are journalists with larger audiences who are very hard on the government and have not had to go through legal proceedings for that, like the documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, or the filmmaker Oliver Stone.
One thing that separates these people from Vicky Peláez is that they are all native U.S. citizens. The other is that none of them question the government in the way she does. Moore’s and Stone’s criticisms are not as profound as those made by Vicky Peláez.
Vicky Peláez has U.S. citizenship and would have the same rights as any other citizen.
Of course, but in terms of perception, if you are accused of a crime, as a Latino, even with U.S. citizenship, that carries weight.
What will happen with Vicky Peláez’s U.S. citizenship now?
Her citizenship is revoked. She leaves as a deportee, as someone expelled.
And her family, will they leave New York for Russia with her?
That is a decision that they will have to make. It’s still not clear whether her children are going to remain in the U.S. or if they will go with her.
The agreement that was reached is unappealable? Could Peláez return to the U.S.?
There’s a paragraph in the agreement that says that she may not return to the U.S. unless she has the authorization of the Attorney General. There is no open and complete prohibition.
Did you accept this agreement while presenting any kind of protest?
We understood that it was the best alternative, so there was no possibility to protest. You can’t say: “I declare myself guilty, but under protest.” Under the U.S. system such a possibility does not exist.
Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the international network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source and translator are cited.