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Delays force postponement of first public hearing in Jineth Bedoya's case

This statement was originally published on flip.org.co on 13 July 2015.

The Foundation for Freedom of the Press (FLIP) has insistently said cases regarding violence against journalists should not be prolonged. There have been a number of cases where delays in the judicial process have diminished the integrity of the evidence and the time the judge should have to evaluate it.

Thus, the delay in the public hearing, scheduled for July 13, against Mario Jaimes Mejia, also known as “El Panadero,” is alarming. He is being tried for kidnapping, torture and sexual violence against journalist Jineth Bedoya in 2000.

Just a week before the hearing, the defense attorney for Mejia resigned because they could not reach a financial agreement. Mejia warned he had not been able to agree with his attorney, and had not been able to go back to the city of Bucaramanga.

The Public Defender assigned Mejia a lawyer, but this lawyer did not accept the case since he did not have enough experience with the criminal proceedings of law 600 established in 2000. Since the defendant did not have a lawyer, the judge decided to delay the hearing until July 28.

FLIP denounces the delays in Jineth Bedoya's case. She has waited for 15 years for the trial to start. FLIP appeals to the National Penitentiary and Prison Institute (Instituto Nacional Penitenciario y Carcelario, INPEC) and Public Defender to take up their responsibility of guaranteeing that the trial will proceed without further delays. INPEC should offer the defendant the possibility of traveling to Bucaramanga so he can talk with his lawyer, ensuring he will be represented on July 28. The Public Defender's Office should also help the accused find a defense attorney while in Bucaramanga.

By doing this, the aforementioned institutions can demonstrate their commitment to avoid delays in proceedings, which could compromise the trial and the rights of the victim.

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