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Investigation of murder of journalist in Michoacán will be handled by federal authorities

(CEPET/IFEX) - The 8 December 2007 murder of state newspaper "La Opinión" journalist Gerardo Israel García Pimentel in Uruapan, Michoacán state, will be investigated by the national Attorney General's Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR). Michoacán is located in Mexico's southwest.

The motive for the crime is still unknown. It took place in broad daylight and was carried out by individuals presumed to be contract killers, wearing hoods to avoid identification and using high-caliber weapons. The victim, who had noticed he was being followed, had sought refuge in the hotel where he lived, which is owned by his wife's family. The assailants caught up with him on the stairs and shot him at close range.

In their coverage of the reporter's funeral local media reported that other journalists have also received anonymous threats, and that radio and television station owner Juan Pablo Solis was abducted in Zitácuaro, a city in the eastern area of Michoacán state, on 7 December (see IFEX alert of 10 December 2007 on the Solís case).

García Pimental had covered agricultural news for several years, and apparently had not received threats before his murder.

Both federal and Michoacán authorities - for example, the Michoacán state human rights commission - have the authority to investigate the murder, but given the circumstances, the PGR and the National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos) have announced they will investigate the case.

The deceased journalist's colleagues and dozens of other journalists from the region demonstrated on 10 December in front of the Michoacán state Attorney General's Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia de Estado, PGJE) in Morelia, the state capital. Michoacán has been one of the country's most violent states in recent months, and is the first state during President Felipe Calderón's administration to which troops have been deployed to clamp down on drug trafficking.

CEPET is horrified by the murder and urges the authorities to clarify the crime as soon as possible so that impunity does not stoke further violence.

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