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Four assailants sentenced for assaulting three journalists in Ciudad Juárez

(CEPET/IFEX) - A judge has sentenced four of the people involved in the assault and robbery of three journalists from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, northern Mexico, to terms ranging from three to nine years in prison.

On 5 September 2006, journalists Jaime Murrieta Briones, a photographer for "El Diario" newspaper, and Aurelio Suárez Núñez and Eugenia Cícero Rivera, reporters for the "PM" evening newspaper, were fired upon after having photographed individuals presumed to be agents of a government ministry drinking and disturbing the peace on the street, along with other individuals.

José Abelardo Torres Bernal, an agent with the Chihuahua state justice system's sub-attorney general's office who was out on bail, was sentenced to 39 months in prison for wounding a person.

Rubén Antonio Martínez Olivares, alias "El Muletas", and Ricardo Barrios Simental, alias "El Topo", each received terms of eight years and eight months, while Carlos Alberto Fernández Luna, "El Papo", was sentenced to nine years and nine months in prison. These three were found guilty of aggravated robbery, damages, injuries and possession of a weapon the use of which is restricted to members of the Army.

There is an outstanding warrant for the arrest of another man, Jorge Manuel Villegas Esparza, operations chief of the Anti-Kidnapping Group of the state sub-attorney general's office.

The National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH) determined that the policemen had violated the right to freedom of expression and the justice system's own legality and security, as well as the personal health and safety of the assaulted journalists. On 28 August 2007, the Commission sent a recommendation to Chihuahua Governor José Reyes Baeza Terrazas.

"El Diario" says that on 30 October Jaime Murrieta Briones and Aurelio Suárez Núñez provide additional information not in their original statement before a judge. Murrieta Briones ratified the charges and commented on the consequences of the injuries to his left eye, and also demanded that his work equipment, including a telephoto lens, bag, radio, two cell phones and an electronic memory card for his camera, be returned. He also noted that the accused had been charged only with robbery and causing injuries, and that the list of charges made no mention of the fact that the assailants had also fired upon him, which he considered "attempted murder."

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