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FLIP welcomes verdicts in cases of two assassinated journalists

(FLIP/IFEX) - The following is an abridged translation of an 8 April 2009 FLIP press release:

FLIP welcomes the recent verdicts in the cases of two assassinated journalists, Elacio Murillo Mosquera and Henry Rojas Monje.

On 17 March 2009, a Quibdó criminal court sentenced Franklin Isnel Díaz Mosquera, known as "Juancho", to 34 years in prison for the murder of journalist and lawyer Elacio Murillo Mosquera. The journalist was killed on 10 January 2007 in Istmina, Chocó, northwestern Colombia. Díaz is accused of having driven the motorcycle that Murillo's killer used to flee the scene.

Jorge Salgado, coordinator of the weekly "Chocó 7 días", told FLIP that he welcomed the verdict, but at the same time expressed his hope that the killer and the masterminds behind the crime would also be identified and brought to trial.

According to the prosecutor's office, "investigators were able to ascertain that days before the murder, Murillo had written an article on the presence of paramilitaries in the San Juan de Chocó area". The investigation also established that the murder was linked to the journalist's profession. FLIP had already expressed this view in a report on press freedom violations in early 2007 (see http://www.flip.org.co/secciones/informes/2007/07_junio.html ).

Murillo, who was 60 when he was killed, worked for "Chocó 7 días" and also coordinated the "Mesa para tres" programme, broadcast daily on the Canelete Estéreo radio station. On 10 January 2007, Murillo was at an icecream shop when an unknown individual approached him and shot him four times before fleeing the scene on a motorcycle driven by his accomplice.

In a separate development, on 24 March the State Council ordered the Colombian government to pay 613 million pesos (approx. US$250,000) in compensation to the family of murdered journalist Henry Rojas Monje. The journalist, who was a correspondent for "El Tiempo" newspaper, was killed in the city of Arauca, Arauca department, on 28 December 1991.

According to the council's verdict, the crime was committed by two National Army soldiers, who also worked for the Arauca Mayor's Office even though they were facing criminal actions at the time. The state council condemned the impunity that has surrounded the case, since those who were behind the killing have not been identified.

Soldiers Wilson Daza Rozo and José Alberto Cristiano Riaño, of the XVIII Army Brigade, were sentenced in 1993 after confessing to having carried out the murder. The investigation was plagued by procedural irregularities, such as attacks on Daza while he was in prison and the mysterious disappearance of the case file in 1996.

In October 1991, Rojas had written a report for "El Tiempo" on secret agreements between the guerilla and politician Marcos Ayala, who was running for the position of Arauca Department governor. On 23 September 1993, the former mayor of Arauca, José Gregorio González, was detained after being accused of being behind the murder. He was later found to be innocent.

A local journalist told FLIP that the council's verdict has left journalists in Arauca department feeling uncertain. On the one hand, the government is being held accountable and the killers have been sentenced but on the other hand, the masterminds behind the murder have not been identified. "Moreover, this is an example of how long it can take to solve a case like this," the journalist said.

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