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Huila House of Representatives president arrested in connection with journalist's murder, arrest warrants issued for two members of FARC guerrilla group

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is a 28 August 2008 IAPA press release:

IAPA welcomes Colombian prosecutors' efforts to seek justice in 10 year-old case of murdered journalist

Miami (August 28, 2008) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today praised actions taken by Colombia' Public Prosecutor's Office to solve the murder of local journalist Nelson Carvajal Carvajal, killed in Pitalito, Huila province, 10 years ago. The case was sent to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) by the organization in 2002. The legal proceedings reopened three years ago by the Attorney General's Office ended with the arrest of the Huila House of Representatives president, Carlos Augusto Rojas Ortiz, one of the alleged masterminds behind the journalist's murder.

The Attorney General's Office also issued arrest warrants for Jovanny Molano Bonilla and Franklin González Ramírez, members of the FARC guerrilla movement, and plans to request a review by the Colombian Supreme Court of the acquittal by a Neiva lower court of Ramiro Falla and Fernando Bermúdez Ardila, former Pitalito mayor and city council member, respectively.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gonzalo Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City-based newspaper Prensa Libre, expressed the organization's satisfaction with the actions taken, "especially because even more important than the outcome we can surely expect, it shows us that there is an effort at both the local and inter-American levels to see justice done."

Enrique Santos Calderón, IAPA vice president and co-editor of the Bogotá-based newspaper El Tiempo, added, "The Attorney General's call for action is a significant step in the battle against impunity and we hope the entire Colombian judicial system will do its job so that the Carvajal case may finally be solved."

The IAPA presented the case to the IACHR on June 21, 2002 where it was accepted on November 11, 2004. Since then a series of negotiations between the IAPA and the Colombian government has led to new official policies aimed at solving the case, including an internal investigation of the Judiciary Superior Council in 2007 of possible wrongdoing in the administration of justice.

Carvajal, a journalist with Radio Sur radio station and a teacher in Pitalito, was murdered on April 16, 1998 as he was leaving Los Pinos School, where he was the principal. He had been exposing irregularities in the city administration and political corruption.

As a result of investigations by Colombia's Public Prosecutor, members of Carvajal's family have received threats that resulted in his sister Judith leaving the country nine years ago, in fear for her life. Two years ago, Carvajal's wife, Luz Stella Bolanos, and his daughters, María Alejandra and Paola Andrea, as well as another sister, Gloria Mercedes were also forced to leave the country.

Updates the Carvajal case:

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