Peru: Top cop under cloud put on rights commission

LIMA, Peru (AP) — A Peruvian police chief facing homicide charges over a deadly clash with Indian protesters has been named to a government commission responsible for defending officials charged with human rights violations.

Police Gen. Luis Muguruza, who commanded a police operation against an Indian road blockade last June that resulted in 33 deaths, was named a member of the Interior Ministry's human rights commission, according to a decree published Saturday in the government's official gazette.

Muguruza faces charges involving the deaths of four Indians as part of charges brought by prosecutors against a total of 17 police officers. Two clashes near the Amazon jungle town of Bagua killed 10 civilians and 23 officers.

Gloria Cano, a lawyer who specializes in human rights, said Sunday that Muguruza's new position could allow him to "lead his own defense in court."

The national human rights commission says one of its duties is to direct the defense of its officials against prosecutions for human rights violations.

The fighting around Bagua, about 450 miles (730 kilometers) north of Lima, is considered the most violent during the presidency of Alan Garcia during disputes with Indian groups over development in the Amazon. A public outcry over the incident led Cabinet Secretary Simon Yehude to resign.