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Journalist attacked by public prosecutor in Ecuador

On Thursday 18 April 2013, journalist Christian Zurita of the newspaper El Universo was physically attacked by provincial prosecutor Simón Lara Grueso in the border town of Esmeraldas - located 318 km north of Quito - while covering the trial of one of the accused in the drug trafficking case known as "Resurgir".

Zurita told Fundamedios that at approximately 16:30, while the hearing was taking place, he took a picture of detainee Christian Arana. This apparently made the prosecutor "nervous" and he requested that the President of the Second Criminal Court identify the journalist. The people present started to complain and ask if they could or could not take pictures, to which the judge replied that he had neither authorized nor prohibited the taking pictures and asked everyone to focus on the hearing.

"Minutes later, Provincial Prosecutor Simón Lara walked over towards me and violently took my phone (with which I was taking the photographs), that forced me to leave the room and his bodyguards pushed me out and took me, still pushing, down a hallway to the stairs where the Prosecutor practically screamed that he would not be intimidated by us while at the same time he bumped his chest against mine. He knew I was a journalist who was covering the trial. But somehow he made it sound as if we were part of the drug traffickers", said Zurita.

The journalist criticized the prosecutor's attitude and asserted that the incident involved "screaming intimidation, physical abuse and even accusations" and despite the fact that he was not forced to delete the photo, the incident prevented him from staying to cover the hearing and therefore find out the details of the detainee's statement, which he wanted to publish in the newspaper as a matter of public interest.

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