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President's attorney asks public prosecutor to initiate additional legal action against "El Universo" newspaper

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - On 31 August 2011, Alembert Vera, President Rafael Correa's attorney in a trial against the "El Universo" newspaper, requested that the Guayaquil public prosecutor initiate proceedings against the paper because it is "allegedly responsible for the crimes of hatred, misrepresentation and illicit association".

The request, which normally precedes a judicial process, is the result of the publication on 21 August of an article with the title "Judge Gamboa shared classrooms with president's attorney", which was accompanied by photographs of Judge Stevie Raúl Gamboa and the president's attorney hugging and acting friendly towards each other during a party. The photographs had been published previously on various social networks.

The publication of the photographs took place after the announcement that Gamboa would be one of the judges in charge of reviewing an appeal in the president's case against "El Universo". Gamboa has now removed himself from the case and has been replaced by Henry Morán. There have been a total of five changes of judges in the Guayas Provincial Court chamber responsible for hearing the appeal.

According to Vera, the "El Universo" article included "deceitful, malicious and reckless words and phrases" which are part of "an odious media campaign that disrespects the right to honour, good name, prestige, privacy and intellectual property".

Vera asked the prosecutor to review as evidence the original article and the name of its author, the person who reproduced it or the person who was responsible for it, and to propose the appropriate legal action for compensation for damages and other relevant actions, "because these deceitful and malicious acts cannot be allowed since they unjustly incite hatred".

This is the second request presented by Vera to the prosecutor's office. The first concerned an article written by journalist Diego Oquendo, which he said could be considered offensive.

Meanwhile, the appeal hearing in the trial for slander initiated by the president against "El Universo", its three directors and its former feature writer, Emilio Palacio, has been set for 13 September. The first instance ruling issued by a provisional judge, requesting a three-year prison sentence for the accused and a payment of US$40 million in damages, will be reviewed at that time.

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