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Release of one of the accused in journalist's murder a setback in the fight against impunity, says IAPA

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is an 8 October 2004 IAPA press release:

IAPA calls release of one of the accused in murder of Guillermo Cano a setback

Miami (October 8, 2004) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) expressed disappointment over the release of Luis Carlos Molina Yepes, one of the accused in the murder of distinguished Colombian journalist Guillermo Cano Isaza, and called it a setback in the fight against impunity.

Cano was killed on December 17, 1986. The head of the Medellín drug cartel, Pablo Escobar, considered Cano and the newspaper he managed, El Espectador, to be his main enemies for condemning drug trafficking and favoring the extradition of drug traffickers to the United States. Escobar ordered Molina Yepes to pay two hit men who shot Cano in the chest eight times.

In early October 2004, Molina Yepes was released after serving six years behind bars. In 1995, while a fugitive, he had been sentenced to16 years and 8 months in prison for his involvement in the crime.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Rafael Molina, said, "without questioning the court's decision, we express our disappointment and outrage over what we believe to be a setback in the fight against impunity and specifically in the fight for justice in the Cano murder case, which is one of the most symbolic in Colombia. The investigation into his murder also resulted in the killing of two judges and an attorney."

Molina Yepes was apprehended at a restaurant in Bogotá on February 18, 1997, days after an IAPA international delegation met with President Ernesto Samper and called on him to make every effort to track down those involved in the journalist's murder.

Although the IAPA expressed its satisfaction and called Molina Yepes's capture a positive step, one month later it submitted a complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), stating that the legal process in the Cano case was marred by irregularities and a denial of justice. The IAPA held the Government of Colombia accountable for violations against human rights and the case was accepted by the IACHR and was assigned case number 11.728.

The hemispheric organization insisted before the Colombian government and the IACHR that the case be solved, since it believed that Cano's murder marked the beginning of a wave of violence against the media and journalists that criticized drug traffickers actions in Colombia.

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