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Trial that ended in journalist's conviction declared invalid in Ecuador

On 10 May 2013, the Provincial Court of Justice of the Province of Carchi - located on the northern border of Ecuador - annulled the conviction for non-aggravated libelous injury previously handed down to journalist and chief executive of the newspaper La Nación, Yaco Martínez. The sentence issued by the Provincial Court states that: "Aware of the provisions of Art.330 and 331 of the Criminal Procedure Code, in relation to the provisions of Article 76 No. 1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador, we declare the process invalid from the moment the complaint was filed by María Helena Villareal (...)”

The articles mentioned refer to the invalidity of a process, in this case, for having infringed on the procedure laid down by the Law. "A review of the sentence issued by the Second Judge of Criminal Guarantees makes it clear that there was a failure to take into account the compliance with the requirements of the Law, which for this kind of crime is imperative for the Judge”, states the ruling.

On 8 March Judge Bayardo García sentenced the journalist to one month in prison and the payment of US$30,000 after having found him guilty, in the first instance, of the crime of non-libelous injuries for having affected "the fame, credit or interest" of the province's former governor. By then Martínez had told Fundamedios that the sentence was politicized because the prosecution had not presented any evidence of the existence of injury, while the former governor had stated that all she wanted was "that the press should fulfill its work ethically and without lying to the public".

It is worth recalling that the complaint was caused by the publication of an article entitled "Person declared non grata will be in charge of the government", dated 2 September 2012. In it, the newspaper La Nación made public the opposition of several sectors against the government being commissioned to a former political chief after the incumbent requested vacation.

According to the former governor, the article aimed to "attack, discredit and scorn my good name, morality, dignity, honor, fame and prestige (...); the defendant, deceiving the public, wants to blame me for alleged illegal actions that only exist in his desire to harm”. It also specified that “the fact that I am an authority should be considered”, and she requested a three- to six-month prison sentence and a fine of 6 to 12 dollars against the journalist.

On 27 September Villarreal publicly announced her resignation as governor of Carchi – by request of the Ministry of the Interior – in the midst of controversy caused by the implementation of a new distribution system for domestic gas, which had led to protests.

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