Legal woes continue for Peruvian journalist reporting on lay movement


June 24, 2019

By Elise Harris

Paola Ugaz, a Peruvian journalist currently waiting for a court to recognize the withdrawal of a complaint for criminal defamation brought by an archbishop linked to a controversial lay movement, is now facing a second charge of providing false testimony in another case brought by the same prelate.

Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren Anselmi of Piura has promised to retract his complaint against Ugaz, but she’s now under investigation by the criminal court of Piura for impeding “the administration of justice” during a similar defamation case against her colleague, Pedro Salinas. Ugaz could face between 2-4 years in prison should she be found guilty of impeding the administration of justice by giving false testimony.

Ugaz co-authored the book Half Monks, Half Soldiers, with Salinas in 2015, detailing years of sexual, psychological and physical abuse inside the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV), a controversial Catholic organization that originated in Peru. Its founder, layman Luis Fernando Figari, has been accused of physical, psychological and sexual abuses and was prohibited by the Vatican in 2017 of having further contact with members of the group.

In 2018, Eguren Anselmi, who is a member of the SCV, issued criminal defamation complaints against both Salinas and Ugaz, charging Ugaz in part for her role in a 2016 documentary titled “The Sodalitium Scandal” by Al-Jazeera she participated in which named Eguren Anselmi as part of a land trafficking scandal in Piura.

In the documentary, local police official Pedro Zapata, who headed a 2014 investigation that dismantled a criminal outfit group associated with trafficking called “La Gran Cruz del Norte,” said the group’s leader had a voucher in his possession for just over $21,000 from the San Juan Bautista association, which has links to the SCV.

After Salinas was found guilty of defamation in April, Eguren Anselmi opted to retract his complaints after facing backlash from civil society as well as from the hierarchy of the Peruvian Catholic Church.

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