A Peruvian court has cleared ex-intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos and two former senior military officers of murder in the killings of three rebels during a celebrated 1997 hostage rescue.

The three-judge court found that one of the three rebels was executed after being captured alive but the other two had resisted the raid, in which commandos freed 72 hostages who had been held more than three months at the Japanese ambassador's residence. All 14 rebel hostage-takers were killed.

The reading of the verdict lasted eight hours and ended Monday night.

In December, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights decided to take up the case, saying Peru's justice system had proven itself incapable of bringing justice.

Montesinos is serving a separate 25-year sentence for death squad killings and corruption.