A Guatemalan courtroom on Wednesday convicted one of many nation’s best-known journalists of cash laundering and sentenced him to 6 years in jail in a case that press freedom teams stated had despatched a chilling message to the nation’s reporters.
Prosecutors bringing the case towards José Rubén Zamora, a journalist and businessman, had sought an extended than common jail sentence of 40 years, which they stated was warranted as a result of he “disrespected the authorities”. The courtroom on Wednesday acquitted him of fees of blackmail and affect peddling.
Carlos Martinez de la Serna, the Committee to Defend Journalist’s (CPJ) programme director, stated: “The shameful conviction and imprisonment of Guatemalan journalist José Rubén Zamora function a stark testomony to the erosion of freedom of speech within the nation. Guatemalan officers should finish the absurd charade of felony proceedings towards him.”
The detention of Zamora, a distinguished authorities critic whose newspaper wrote extensively about corruption, sparked concern and condemnation from worldwide human rights organisations.
He has stated the costs towards him have been filed in retaliation for tales revealed by his newspaper that alleged corruption by the federal government of President Alejandro Giammattei. The president has denied any position within the case.
The trial sparked concern among the many nation’s reporters, a few of whom are additionally working whereas underneath felony investigation. Greater than 20 journalists have fled the nation within the final yr, in line with collective #NoNosCallaran (#TheyWillNotSilenceUs).
Zamora advised the Monetary Occasions within the days earlier than the decision that the nation was vulnerable to turning into a “tyrannical, fascist dictatorship”. He has stated he would enchantment towards any conviction.
He has claimed the case, which centred round Q300,000 ($38,300) in money prosecutors stated was laundered, was plagued with irregularities. Zamora was arrested inside days of the unique grievance, and the case was wrapped up in only a yr in a rustic the place proceedings usually drag on for years. Prosecutors have additionally pursued circumstances towards his attorneys, members of the family and different reporters from his newspaper.
Earlier than the decision, Stephen Townley, authorized director of the Clooney Basis for Justice’s TrialWatch initiative, stated Zamora’s attorneys have been hamstrung from day one.
“Worldwide requirements require that governments guarantee attorneys are capable of carry out their duties with out intimidation or harassment,” he stated.
Prosecutors stated after the decision that the trial complied with all of the formalities and constitutional rules.
In the identical verdict, former prosecutor Samari Gómez was acquitted of fees of leaking info after spending virtually a yr in jail.
The US authorities has beforehand expressed concern about key figures in Guatemala’s justice system. The nation’s attorney-general and chief anti-corruption prosecutors are on Washington’s undemocratic and corrupt actors checklist.