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Journalist previously sentenced to time in prison for slander faces new lawsuit

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - On 19 July 2011, Guayas Judge Ángel Rubio ordered a search of the home and the arrest of "El Universo" newspaper journalist Peter Tavra Franco. Tavra, who was previously sentenced for slander, now faces a new US$10 million lawsuit. Both cases were filed by Mónica Carrera and her brother Milton.

The search and arrest order was issued in compliance with a ruling issued by the Third Guayas Criminal and Transit Court, sentencing Tavra to six months in prison and ordering him to pay US$3,000 in damages in connection with the lawsuit filed by the Carreras, which originated from a 3 February 2009 news story.

The article told of Mónica Carrera's escape from a hospital after her detention for alleged human trafficking upon her arrival in the country. There was a warrant for her arrest at the time.

The plaintiffs claimed "the article caused severe damage to [Mónica Carrera's] good name, honour and reputation." However Tavra, in a prior interview with Fundamedios, said he wrote the article based on "police documents" which specified the reasons for the "alleged trafficker's" detention.

In January 2010, the decision made in first instance by Judge Rubio was dismissed and the official acquitted the journalist of the accusation presented against him by the Carreras. That decision, however, was appealed and resulted in a ruling in favour of the plaintiffs when the case was brought before a third instance court. Finally the case was heard by the National Court of Justice, which in May 2011 declared the appeal presented by both parties to be unfounded.

Based on this, the Carrerra siblings filed a new lawsuit before Judge Rubio such that, in a summary hearing, Tavra may be sentenced to pay US$10 million for the alleged damages and losses suffered by the plaintiffs.

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