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Trial against "El Gran Hermano" authors continues after proposed pardon is rejected

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - 30 March 2012 - On 26 March 2012, the Second Civil Court of the Pichincha Tribunal of Justice rejected President Rafael Correa's request to shelve the case for moral damage against journalists Juan Carlos Calderón and Christian Zurita – authors of the book “El Gran Hermano” – after he “excused” the two million dollar sentence that was imposed on them.

This means the trial, which is currently on appeal after receiving a first instance sentence, will now continue, even though on 27 February Correa announced that he would withdraw the suit against the two investigative journalists.

The president's attorneys presented a writ requesting the judges of the Second Civil Court to “cancel or pardon the obligation established in the sentence" and close the trial he initiated after the publication of the journalists' book, as part of which he initially demanded reparations amounting to $10 million dollars.

According to information provided by Pichincha's Judiciary, the president's request “is not valid (...) because only trials that have ended in any of the ordinary or extraordinary modes considered by law can be shelved, and in this case the pardon does not put an end to the legal case”.

Ramiro Aguilar, the journalists' attorney, explained to Fundamedios that the trial will continue because no legal procedure exists as a possible way to end a civil trial. "What the court has done is request that, if the process is to come to an end, this is done in a correct way and according to the law".

Aguilar believes that the next step will be to appear before a conciliation board where the president can withdraw the claim; otherwise they will move on towards a stage where evidence will need to be presented to prove that Correa suffered no moral damage.

According to the newspaper "El Comercio", Gutemberg Vera, the president's attorney, explained that the presidential pardon was not made effective because, allegedly, Calderón and Zurita's defense did not accept, through a writ, the "pardon" of the sentence. “The trial continues because our pardon was conditional on the other party's acceptance”, he declared.

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