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Court delays sentencing in years-long case against Ecuadorian radio reporter

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - Since 6 July 2012, journalist Freddy Aponte has been waiting to be notified of the sentence that should have been issued by Loja's Provincial Court of Justice Associate Judges Chamber as part of a trial for fraudulent bankruptcy against Aponte by former mayor Bolívar Castillo.

As part of this legal process - which was initiated after the journalist failed to pay US$54,633 from a previous lawsuit for moral damage filed by Castillo - Aponte received a sentence of five years on 9 August 2011 from the Loja Court of Justice.

During the latest hearing in July 2012 an appeal filed by the journalist's defense was rejected and Aponte is still waiting for a judgement, despite the fact that the judges should have issued it within 72 hours of the hearing. Until this happens, the journalist cannot move forward with his defense and appeal to a higher court.

Adolfo Moreno, the journalist's counsel stated: "The issue in Aponte's case is that we are not facing a legal problem but a political one. The legal discussion is being avoided by the use of power." This statement is based, according to Moreno, on the fact that "they are infringing due process because the crime of fraudulent bankruptcy cannot be persecuted if, previously, the civil justice has not declared the journalist insolvent. Without this preliminary judgment, the criminal case should not have been initiated," he said.

On 27 July 2011, the Second Penal Guarantees Tribunal of Loja declared Aponte guilty of fraudulent bankruptcy after he failed to pay US$54,633 in compensation for the moral damage caused to Castillo. This is the third criminal case initiated by the former mayor against Aponte, who has already served time in prison after being sentenced - in September 2008 - to six months for slander against Castillo.

The first case originated in June 2007 when Castillo accused Aponte of calling him a "thief" in his Loja radio station Luz y Vida opinion program "Primer Plano". The journalist denied the accusation. Aponte has questioned the tribunals' rulings since the beginning of the processes against him, claiming family connections exist between the accuser and the judges who processed his cases.

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