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Journalist's bank account frozen on judge's orders

(FUNDAMEDIOS/IFEX) - On 10 September 2010, Centinela radio station journalist Freddy Aponte's bank account was frozen following orders issued by criminal court judge Humberto Aguilera, in the city of Loja.

Aponte told FUNDAMEDIOS that he attempted to withdraw money from several different automated teller machines around the city and was told each time that he had no funds even though a few days earlier he had taken out a US$15,000 loan from the Bank of Loja.

Aponte went to the bank, where he was told that an order had been issued to have his money transferred to a National Development Bank (Banco Nacional de Fomento) account belonging to the courts. The order included the freezing of his account and seizure of US$4,539 of the journalist's money based on criminal proceedings initiated in February 2009 by the former mayor of Loja, Bolívar Castillo. The former mayor accused Aponte of fraudulent insolvency so he would not have to pay the US$54,633 that he was sentenced to pay after Castillo sued the journalist for moral damages.

Aponte acknowledged he has not paid the amount because he "does not have the funds" to do so.

He also said that the legal actions against him are part of a campaign of "political persecution" and a "revenge" tactic.

The former mayor of Loja's accusations had already resulted in Aponte being sentenced to six months in prison and payment of moral damages and legal costs, which amounted to US$1,500. The case began in June 2007 when, according to Castillo, Aponte accused him of being a "thief" on his opinion program, although evidence to back up the accusation was never presented.

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