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Individual accused of journalist's murder acquitted

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 14 November 2009, Arley Manquillo Rivera was declared not guilty of the murder of journalist José Everardo Aguilar. The ruling was issued by Judge Víctor Narváez, who said that the evidence provided by the prosecution was insufficient to allow for sentencing of the alleged killer. The Public Prosecutor's Office said it would appeal the ruling.

José Everardo Aguilar was assassinated on 24 April in the municipality of Patía, in Cauca department. He worked for Radio Súper radio station and had a long career as a journalist in the region. On his radio programme he covered local politics and often denounced corruption at the municipal and departmental government levels.

The prosecutor's primary evidence consisted of testimony given by the journalist's daughter, Agnolia Aguilar, who witnessed the murder and provided information for an artist's rendering of the alleged assassin, in addition to identifying the suspect in a police line-up. Another individual also provided a photo to the police and identified the suspect, but did not want to testify at the trial for fear of reprisals.

Manquillo's wife and a neighbour testified for the defence, saying that at the time of the murder the suspect was at a meeting of a group that provides support to citizens who have been displaced by the conflict in the country. The suspect's wife and neighbour presented minutes from the meeting but the prosecution was able to prove that the minutes were fake.

The judge questioned the credibility of Agnolia Aguilar's testimony, saying she was "perturbed" after having witnessed her father's murder and that there were some inconsistencies in the physical description of the murderer. As such, he came to the conclusion that the testimony of one individual, the journalist's daughter, was not sufficient to allow for sentencing of the suspect.

The prosecution said that Judge Narváez's decision was unexpected, that it appeared that he did not understand some of the explanations that were given and that he failed to "provide a convincing argument" when issuing his ruling.

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