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Faced with ongoing legal action, journalist decides to leave the country

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - On 28 August 2011, Emilio Palacio, a former opinion editor for "El Universo" newspaper, announced via an e-mail that he "was forced" to leave the country due to the political persecution he believes he is being subjected to.

In the message, Palacio says he decided to leave for the United States because his safety was at risk due to the "shameless abuse" to which he has been subjected. "They want to impose as a judge (in my case) the dictator's lawyer's closest friend. They have launched a new criminal action against me because I called (President) Rafael Correa's paid 'insulters' fascists. A minister whose name I don't remember threatened to sue me for 'perjury'. The right and left wing pro-government press have intensified their insults," Palacio said in the e-mail.

According to Palacio's message, he arrived in the United States on 24 August. Fundamedios, however, was unable to confirm this.

Jorge Alvear, Palacio's attorney, told Fundamedios that he believes the journalist flew to Miami on a tourist visa. The United States Embassy in Quito was unable to confirm if Palacio has submitted a request for asylum.

Alvear questioned the way in which the legal process against Palacio, "El Universo" and three of the daily's directors has taken place after President Correa filed a defamation lawsuit against them. He noted, as an example, the speed with which the sentence was issued by a provisional judge and the attempt to assign another judge to the case who is alleged to have ties to the president's lawyer. The attorney justified his client's decision to leave the country, stating that he believes "it's not heroic to stay" and expose oneself to having one's rights trampled.

Palacio is the primary defendant in the defamation lawsuit filed by Correa. A first instance court sentenced Palacio and the three "El Universo" directors to three years in prison. The defendants were also ordered to pay US$40 million in damages. The case is now being heard by a second instance court.
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