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Court in Ecuador acquits suspects of involvement in journalist's murder

On April 23, 2014, the Eleventh Criminal Court of Guayas acquitted four of the five suspects for the murder of journalist Fausto Valdiviezo, who was killed on April 11, 2013. These people were charged as the perpetrators, accomplices and persons concealing the act. The fifth suspect's trial has been suspended, because he escaped and is currently at large. The Court reached this decision after three days of hearings and afterwards dismissed the prosecution's evidence, which in the opinion of the judges, could not substantiate the charges against the suspects.

Julio Cesar Cueva, the Valdiviezo family lawyer said at a press conference that "the judges did what any judge would have done in the absence of evidentiary strength from the prosecution." The lawyer criticized the actions of the prosecutor, saying that the way the investigations were done quickly so that the trial could be heard, but that the prosector could have taken more time with the preliminary investigation, which may have led to stronger proof against the suspects. "The hastiness of the investigation took its toll in this case, and is what disappoints us, because we are a year after the murder of Fausto, without evidence, without assumptions, without trial, with absolutely nothing in an absolute state of impunity," said the lawyer.

In the meantime, Alfredo Valdiviezo, the brother of the murdered journalist, expressed his discomfort and questioned the performance of the Prosecutor's Office. He also referred to a press conference given by Interior Minister José Serrano, in which the Minister spoke about an unusual relationship between the journalist and the suspects, since no connection between them was ever made clear. "We feel helpless, disappointed, we feel like Fausto was killed yesterday, we have nothing, it's a desperate feeling (...) missing the two main suspects, the one who shot and who had organized the crime," he said. Valdiviezo's lawyer said he will issue another request asking the prosecutor to reopen the case with a serious investigation.

In public statements, the prosecutor Victor Altamirano, charged with leading the trial, said he would appeal the court's decision, since the degree of the suspects' participation was clearly identified and the motive was properly presented before the Court.

Fundamedios has repeatedly expressed it's concern to the judicial authorities that this case could end up an example of impunity. Last week, referring to the anniversary of Fausto Valdiviezo's death, Fundamedios sent a letter to General Attorney Galo Chiriboga, questioning that has been a year since the petty crime and there are more questions than answers. Fundamedios requested that the investigation continue to find the real criminals and motives for the murder of the journalist.

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