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Two police officers suspended, under investigation in attack on journalist in Sinaloa

(CEPET/IFEX) - The following is a 10 September 2007 statement from CEPET, an interim member of IFEX:

Two policemen suspended for attack on journalist in Sinaloa

Mexico, 10 September 2007 - The Office of the Attorney General of Sinaloa ordered the temporary suspension from duty of policemen Roberto Carlos Barceló Villagrán Torres and Jorge Zataráin. The two officers are under investigation in the assault upon photojournalist Luis Fernando Nájera of the daily "El Debate" and the weekly "Ríodoce".

The officers stand accused of abuse of authority and illegal detention and are under investigation by the Justice Ministry (Ministerio Público) as well as the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Journalists (Fiscalía Especializada en Agresiones a Periodistas) of the Attorney General's office.

The assault took place on 29 June 2007 as the journalist tried to cover a police operation. Nájera was assaulted and his equipment seized after he photographed police assaulting another individual. After the operation concluded and Nájera departed the scene, he was pursued by a group of officers who threatened him with death.

He was subsequently arrested and detained for two days because the police found a firearm in his vehicle that they had apparently planted there to incriminate him. He was released after paying a 20,000 peso (approx. US$2,000) fine.

The journalist also submitted a complaint to the state Human Rights Commission. The state Congress has also agreed to follow his case.

CEPET condemns the original offence, calls for a thorough investigation, and reiterates that any attack on a journalist or media outlet is an attack on the public's right to receive information.

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