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IAPA characterises Supreme Court decision as a step forward in the fight against impunity

Disappointment over acquittal in Colombian murder case, IAPA trusts in reversal on appeal

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami (November 19, 2009) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today described a recent decision by the Argentina Supreme Court as "a step forward in the fight against impunity" after it overturned a ruling that had awarded conditional release from prison to one of photojournalist José Luis Cabezas' killers.

On November 16 the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the life sentence for Sergio Gustavo González, a member of the self-styled criminal gang "Los Horneros". Gonzalez and eight others had been found guilty of Cabezas' murder. In February 2005 he was granted parole on condition of the payment of a 20,000 pesos (about $7,000) bond, under the terms of the then-existent "two for one" system which allowed double credit for the number of years actually spent in jail awaiting trial and sentencing.

Cabezas, a news photographer with the Buenos Aires magazine Noticias, was killed in the beach resort of Pinamar on January 25, 1997. He was abducted, beaten, handcuffed and tortured, then shot twice in the head and his body burned inside a car. Photos he had taken offended businessman Alfredo Yabrán, who is claimed to have ordered the murder. Yabrán committed suicide in 1998 shortly after a warrant was issued for his arrest as the alleged mastermind behind Cabezas' murder.

IAPA President Alejandro Aguirre, managing editor of the Miami, Florida, newspaper Diario Las Américas, declared, "We are pleased the impunity in this case has ended; this is encouraging and of great importance to his family and colleages, as well as a major deterrent to the violence unleashed against journalists and a step forward in the fight against impunity."

Colombia

In contrast, upon learning of the acquittal in Colombia of the alleged murderer of journalist José Everardo Aguilar, the IAPA expressed confidence that the courts in that country would rule in favor of the Public Prosecutor's appeal on December 4th and that the crime will not remain unpunished.

On November 12, Judge Víctor Narváez ruled in favor of Arley Manquillo Rivera, a.k.a. Huracán (Hurricane), accused of killing Aguilar at his home on April 24 this year. The judge, who based his decision on a lack of evidence, threw out the testimony of Aguilar's daughter Agnolia who witnessed her father's murder and identified the killer. Another witness, who also identified the defendant, did not appear in court, claiming to have received threats.

Aguilar, the 72-year-old father of 10 children, was the correspondent of the Radio Súper network in Patia, Cauca province, in southwestern Colombia. According to Aguilar's colleagues and children, it is believed he was killed for exposing local government corruption and political turmoil. In 2003 he began receiving threats after denouncing wrongdoing in gubernatorial and mayoral election campaigns. At that time, his son Martín told the IAPA's Rapid Response Unit in Colombia that his father was visited by two men who warned him that they had been hired to kill him. A week before his death he had announced that he was going to reveal further corruption.

Family members told the IAPA of their concern over the court decision, because "(the defendant) was the only person linked to the murder investigation, and now we're right back to the start; there is no killer, much less a mastermind."

Aguilar also worked for the newspapers El Violín, Diario del Sur of Pasto, El Liberal of Popayán and El País of Cali as well as radio networks Caracol, RCN, Radio Súper and Bolívar Stéreo.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
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    (RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to shed all possible light on the murder of José Everardo Aguilar, a reporter for the privately-owned regional radio stations Radio Super and Bolívar Estéreo, who was gunned down in his home in El Bordo, a town in the south-western department of Cauca, on 24 April 2009.



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