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Photographer threatened with death, assaulted by son of ex-intelligence officer on trial for human rights violations

(FOPEA /IFEX) - The following is an 8 June 2007 statement, received 26 June 2007, from FOPEA, an interim member of IFEX:

Journalist attacked by son of former military officer

On 8 June 2007, Gabriel Oyarzo, a photographer for "Río Negro" newspaper, was attacked by the son of a former military officer accused of participating in the illegal campaign against dissidents carried out by the former military government between 1976 and 1983. The photographer was attempting to take a picture of a former intelligence officer, Jorge Molina Escurra, as he entered a court in which he is being tried in relation to the illegal campaign by the military government.

Oyarzo told TELAM news agency that, while he was waiting for the arrival of Molina Escurra - a retired military officer being tried for crimes against humanity for his activities in Neuquén province during the military government, a man that identified himself as Molina Escurra's son prevented him from taking pictures.

"The guy jumped out of a car with darkened windows that had been parked in front of the courthouse and he shoved me away so that I would not shoot pictures. He insulted me and I fell down, but all the same I managed to take photographs at that moment," Oyarzo told TELAM. Molina Escurra's son then threatened to kill the photographer.

Four days later Oyarzo, accompanied by leaders of the Assembly for Human Rights of Neuquen (Asamblea por los Derechos Humanos de Neuquén) and members of the Journalists' Union (Sindicato de Prensa), reported the incident and turned over photographs of it to the office of the Attorney General of the province.

A great deal of tension has surrounded the trials related to violations of human rights that occurred during the military dictatorship of 1976-1983. There have been several worrisome incidents over the last nine months. A key witness in a trial against a former policeman disappeared and his whereabouts are still not known. As well, other witnesses have reported receiving anonymous threats. Human rights organizations have urged the justice system to speed up the trials and to guarantee the safety of witnesses.

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