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Ecuadorian court rescinds libel sentence against politician and journalist

This statement was originally published on fundamedios.org on 24 March 2015.

On 23 March 2015, the Criminal Division of the National Court of Justice rescinded the sentence imposed on former assembly member Cléver Jiménez, and his adviser, journalist Fernando Villavicencio, for libel against President Rafael Correa. The court explained in its ruling that “because it is legal and applicable under the provisions of Articles 107, 108 and 114 of the Penal Code, we declare the end of the sentence imposed (…) and therefore we decree that the clerk to this court should notify the police authorities in writing so that they refrain from capturing them”.

Both Jiménez and Villavicencio had remained in hiding somewhere in the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle after the Ecuadorian State failed to accept the protective measures granted by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on 24 March 2014, requesting that the effects of the sentence should be suspended.

On 14 January 2014, the Tribunal of the Criminal Division of the National Court denied the judicial review requested by Jiménez, Villavicencio and Carlos Figueroa, and upheld the ruling of Judge Lucy Blacio, who in April 2013 convicted them of libel against President Rafael Correa.

Blacio sentenced Jiménez and Villavicencio, as the direct perpetrators, to 18 months in prison, while Figueroa's sentence – which he has already served – was reduced to six months. On 26 August 2014, however, Judge Blacio modified the sentence according to the new Penal Code and lowered it to 12 months.

After coming out of hiding, Jiménez and Villavicencio declared feeling stronger from the experience and announced they will continue denouncing corruption in the country. In an interview with Rayuela Radio, Jiménez stated that “it is most unfortunate and sad that the government should show no mercy for and persecute the relatives of victims of political persecution. Our families have been terribly persecuted. Public resources were used for this purpose”.

Villavicencio told the same radio station that he will not allow the abuses suffered to go unpunished and, stressing the positive side of having stayed a year in hiding, saying that thanks to the persecution and pain they suffered, opponents to the governing party movement have increased considerably. “They won't be able to pay for the dark and tragic events, the death of my father with whom I couldn't be during his last days, the time I couldn't spend with my children enjoying that enormous pleasure, the brutality of the raid on my house, the persecution and the psychological trauma that these events have caused to my family”.

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