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Reporter tortured and threatened with death by Sinaloa police

(CENCOS/IFEX) - On 29 June 2007, Luis Fernando Nájera, a reporter for "El Debate de Culiacán" daily newspaper and "Ríodoce" weekly newspaper, was assaulted and threatened. The incident occurred when he was covering a raid by a rapid-action team of masked ministry police on a home in the city of Mochis, in the municipality of Ahome in Sinaloa, a northern state. He had taken a photograph of a person being beaten by the police during the raid.

After Nájera had finished taking photos, the police attacked him. They chased him down, abducted and tortured him, and threatened to kill him for having taken the photos.

Irene González Sánchez, a colleague of Nájera's at "El Debate de Culiacán" who is also the secretary of the Siete de Junio Journalists' Association, told CENCOS that Nájera went to the national Attorney General's Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) to report the incident, where he came across one of the ministerial police officers involved in the assault. Nájera asked for his camera equipment, which had been confiscated during the incident, to be returned to him. The police not only denied having it in their possession, but announced they were going to arrest him, saying they had "found a gun", which in fact belonged to one of the policemen, in the truck which the reporter had driven in to the PGR to report the incident. He was then arrested and jailed for two days, without any family member or friend being notified. He was only released after the payment of bail of 20,000 pesos (approx. US$1,860).

González added that Nájera had reported the incident to the Attorney General's Office, the Culiacán office of the Human Right Commission and the national Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Journalists (Fiscalía Especializada en Delitos contra Periodistas), indicating that he held the group of ministerial police involved and commander Roberto Carlos Barcelo Villagrán responsible. He asked that Barcelo Villagrán and the group be investigated and punished as provided for by the law.

CENCOS asks both federal and Sinaloa state authorities to order that precautionary measures be taken to protect Nájera and to carry out an investigation to determine those responsible. It is bad enough that such assaults are committed by organized crime groups. It is even worse when those responsible for such incidents are public employees and that they have not been punished.

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