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Judge rejects journalist's appeal, sends case to trial

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - On 10 January 2011, the Penal Division of the Provincial Court of Justice in Loja, a city located in southern Ecuador, rejected an appeal filed by journalist Freddy Aponte and ratified a call to trial for "fraudulent insolvency". The fraudulent insolvency case was brought against Aponte after he failed to pay nearly US$55,000 in reparations to the former mayor of Loja, José Bolívar Castillo, which resulted from a previous trial for "moral damage".

Adolfo Moreno Bravo, Aponte's lawyer, told Fundamedios there were irregularities in the process because the Penal Code was not correctly applied. He also claimed that there is a prejudicial environment against his client, which prevents him from "defending himself in equal conditions."

According to Moreno, these irregularities became apparent in the proceedings when a civil trial following an accusation of insolvency became a criminal trial even though no civil judge issued a ruling stating that Aponte's bankruptcy was fraudulent. "This is a true judicial aberration and the source of a calamitous precedent that gives cause for shame in the Loja legal system, and which, above all, criminalises indebtedness. Whoever owes money in Loja goes to jail," the lawyer said.

Moreno also stated that Judge Hernán Castillo, the president of the tribunal that rejected the appeal, has links to the former mayor, having previously worked with him in a public institution.

For his part, Aponte, who served a prison sentence when a judge declared him guilty of slandering Bolívar Castillo, told Fundamedios that he feels powerless in the case and that he does not have the resources to pay the alleged debt.

Aponte's defence is waiting for written notification of the trial, which could result in a new criminal sentencing.

It is important to note that this is the third trial initiated by the former mayor against Aponte. The dispute originated in June 2007 when Castillo accused Aponte of calling him a "thief" on his "Primer Plano" programme broadcast by the Luz y Vida de Loja radio station.

The journalist has questioned the tribunals' rulings since the beginning of the proceedings against him, claiming there were family connections between the plaintiff and the judges who handled his cases, which may have had an influence on their rulings.

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