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National Court of Justice ratifies three-year prison sentence against Emilio Palacio

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - 29 December 2011 - The Second Criminal Division of the National Court of Justice issued a ruling yesterday rejecting an appeal for review of the case submitted by Emilio Palacio, former opinion editor of the newspaper "El Universo". The court also set the date of Friday 13 January 2012 for a public hearing during which the counsel for the newspaper and the paper's directors can present their arguments for appealing the case on legal grounds.

The members of the Second Criminal Division deemed that the appeal for review of the case presented by Palacio, after his appeal on legal grounds was rejected in September, was "unfounded". As a result, the judges rejected the appeal and imposed a fine amounting to three minimum living wages (US$792). In effect, they ratified the sentence issued against Palacio by a first instance court and upheld by a second instance court in the defamation trial launched by the president of the republic, Rafael Correa.

Palacio told Fundamedios that the ruling did not come as a surprise. "If it was not this way, they would have found another way to condemn me following another illegal and immoral path . . . this court has remained silent about all the infringements of the law that have taken place in the country," the former editor said.

José Alvear, Palacio's lawyer, told the press that the decision is illegal because there was no hearing to consider the appeal for review of the case.

On 6 February 2011, Palacio published an opinion article entitled "No a las mentiras". This resulted in a lawsuit against "El Universo", and eventually temporary judge Juan Paredes sentenced the former editor and the paper's directors, Carlos, César and Nicolás Perez, to three years in prison and the payment of US$40 million in damages.

The sentence has been questioned by several individuals because of the speed at which it was issued, within less than 24 hours, during which time Paredes would have had to read all the documentation concerning the case and draft a 156-page ruling between the evening of 19 July and the early hours of the next day.

Because of this the Guayas Prosecutor's Office initiated an investigation of the judge, for the alleged crime of malfeasance and moral turpitude, that is, issuing a resolution with the knowledge that it is unjustified, assuming responsibilities that do not concern him and determining that certain falsified events were true.

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