Paraguayan president to attend hearing on torture accusations


Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez will travel to Costa Rica this week for an Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) hearing on alleged torture of suspects by authorities in Paraguay in 2002, the country’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

“A possible ruling going against the Paraguayan state is an affront to the institutions of the republic and to the rule of law being consolidated in Paraguay,” Foreign Minister Luis Alberto Castiglioni told the press at the presidential residence.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights brought the case on behalf of left-wing activists Juan Arrom and Anuncio Marti, who the prosecution alleges were tortured by Paraguayan police in January 2002.

Castiglioni said that the presence of Abdo Benitez at the hearing had nothing to do with intimidating the court.

The foreign minister went on to accuse the IACHR of exceeding its authority by even agreeing to hear a case that was previously adjudicated in the Paraguayan courts.

Arrom and Marti said they were arrested in 2001 by police officers who pressured them into pleading guilty to the kidnapping of Maria Edith Bordon de Debernardi, the wife of a wealthy construction magnate and daughter-in-law of former Finance Minister Enzo Debernardi.

Bordon said that she will also be at Thursday’s hearing in Costa Rica along with Sen. Fidel Zavala, who was abducted by the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP) rebel group in 2009.

Bordon and Zavala started a campaign on Monday night aimed at preventing the two activists from receiving compensation from the Paraguayan government if the IACHR rules in their favor.

The Paraguayan courts never determined if the two activists were guilty of kidnapping Bordon since the men fled to Brazil after being kidnapped and released - showing signs of torture - before the trial date.

Arrom and Marti were granted political asylum by the Brazilian government.

Last month, Paraguay officially asked Brazil - now led by a rightist government - to revoke that status so Arrom and Marti could be arrested and tried.

Bordon’s kidnapping sent shock waves through the Paraguayan upper class. She was released after 64 days in captivity and the payment of a hefty ransom, reportedly around $1 million.

Three people were convicted in 2003 for the abduction.