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Court excludes press from hearing of domestic violence case involving judge

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 25 January 2008, Judge Fernando Valderrama forbade the press access to the rooms in which hearings were to be held in a family violence case. The defendant in the case, Ricardo Blanco, is an appeals court judge for the district of San Miguel in Santiago, the capital.

The criminal proceedings code allows, as an exception, for this first stage of the proceedings to be conducted without public or press access, if requested by the defendant. However, judges have been criticized for employing this discretional option too readily. In this particular case, Supreme Court Judge Milton Juica and Minister of Justice Carlos Maldonado have both criticized the exclusion of the press and the public from the hearing.

The exclusion of the press from the hearing was denounced by the Journalists' College (Association Colegio de Periodistas) and the Court Journalists Association (Agrupación de Periodistas de Tribunales). The two organisations believe that in this case "it is an unusual, if not special, case in which a Minister of the Appeals Court is implicated."

The presidents of both organisations, Luis Conejeros and Mario Antonio Guzmán, respectively, met with Supreme Court Chief Magistrate Urbano Marín, who promised an investigation would be carried out under the supervision of the head of Santiago's Court of Appeals, Gabriela Pérez.

Ultimately, Blanco's wife withdrew the accusation and, therefore, the prosecutor could not proceed with the case.

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