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In Peru, a major travesty of justice: A judge decides a #MeToo truth-teller defamed a powerful former culture minister and twice confirmed sexual harasser. The patriarchy still rules. [Updated Jan 10]
In a Lima court, a female judge sentences anthropologist Marcela Poirier to pay $48,000 in penalties and to a suspended sentence of one year, eight months in jail. Marcel and her attorney will appeal.
In an enormous miscarriage of justice, a Peruvian judge has found against anthropologist Marcela Poirier in the defamation suit filed against her by twice confirmed sexual harasser Luis Jaime Castillo Butters. The penalty is a $48K fine and one year, eight months in jail. The judge suspended the jail sentence, at least for now; but if Marcela puts one foot (or one Tweet) wrong, it can be reinstated. In effect, the judge has attempted to silence Marcela for telling the truth about Castillo when she reported him to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences—which ejected him as an international member after it conducted its own investigation.
The judge also sanctioned Marcela's lawyer, Brenda Alvarez—a leading voice in Peru in the fight for gender justice—on the grounds that she supposedly tried to delay the trial. Brenda will immediately appeal on Marcela’s behalf, as well as her own.
The judge dismissed the testimony of all of Marcela's witnesses, including me, the reporter who initially investigated allegations of sexual harassment against Castillo and found them to be well supported (as did the sexual harassment commission of Castillo's university, the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, along with the NAS.)
Castillo, a powerful Peruvian archaeologist and former minister and deputy minister of culture, claimed that I made up all of the survivors (there were five in my reporting, and more in the wings) and that it was all lies. (He did so not only in court, but in an interview with Peruvian TV channel ATV, which opens him up to a defamation suit from me should I choose to pursue it.) Castillo claimed at the trial that I had colluded with several of the witnesses in the case to fabricate evidence against him.
Of course I stand by my extensive reporting on Castillo’s abuses, which can be found on Balter's Blog (I wrote a number of reports about Castillo’s history of abuses and the responses to them by victims and survivors; for some quick links see this Tweet.)
I know who the victims are and recorded their stories faithfully. Marcela had important support from the Institute of Andean Studies and the NAS, but both the American Anthropological Association and the Society for American Archaeology—along with some leading #MeToo “advocates”—refused to support her. I will explore the cynical motivations for this in a future post on Balter’s Blog.
More to come. Justice will be done, but for now it is a terrible disaster for a colleague who told the truth, and for women in Peru who cannot count on the justice system to protect them.
Update Jan 10, 2023: A Peruvian appeals court has overturned the trial court’s decision and ordered a new trial. Whether Castillo will go that route or drop the case remains to be seen. But a huge victory for Marcela and survivors of abuse nevertheless.