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Police identify journalist's alleged killers, confirm reporting was motive

(RSF/IFEX) - The Dominican police have identified the individuals they believe masterminded and carried out the 2 August 2011 abduction and murder of journalist José Agustín Silvestre de los Santos, saying the motive was an article by Silvestre linking the alleged mastermind to criminal activities.

Also known as "Gajo," Silvestre hosted the programme "La Voz de la Verdad" (The Voice of Truth) on Caña Teve, a regional television station in the east of the country, and edited a magazine with the same name.

"We welcome the effort that has been put into this investigation and its rapid results," Reporters Without Borders said. "Solving this case will send a signal in the fight against impunity. Now that it has been confirmed that the victim's work as a journalist was the motive, we must point out that the Dominican Republic continues to be a risky country for journalists who try to cover subjects such as street violence, corruption and organized crime."

According to investigators, Silvestre was abducted and murdered on orders from Matías "Daniel" Avelino Castro, the owner of a hotel and advertising agency who also uses the alias of Joaquín Espinal Almeyda. They say Avelino took revenge for an article by Silvestre linking him to criminal activities, including the murder of two people in the eastern city of La Romana.

Avelino allegedly asked Ángel Amed Mañón Gutiérrez to carry out the murder. Mañón was arrested with the murder weapon on him on 7 August and, according to the police, has since confessed to the crime. On 9 August, the police named three other suspected accomplices - Denny Júnior Serrano, Elvin Canario de Oleo and Fermín Marcelino Calderón. The police are searching for all three, as well as the alleged mastermind.

According to the police, traces of Silvestre's blood were found in a rented car. Immediately after the murder, Avelino allegedly telephoned the head of the car rental agency, Antonio Rafael Fulgencio Lan, and asked him to destroy the rental contract. Fulgencio has been arrested and a judge ordered for him to be held in pre-trial detention for three months on a charge of complicity in a crime. His lawyers plan to appeal this decision.

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