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Judge exonerates journalist but sentences writer in lawsuit stemming from book's publication

(ARTICLE 19/CENCOS/IFEX) - On 23 September 2008, more than four years after the beginning of legal proceedings, a Mexico City judge exonerated journalist Miguel Ángel Granados Chapa in a case brought against him by Congressman Gerardo Sosa Castelán. Judge Miguel Ángel Robles Villegas, however, sentenced writer Alfredo Rivera Flores to pay an as yet to be determined fine in the same case.

The legal action stemmed from the publication of a book entitled "Sosa Nostra: porrismo y gobierno coludidos en Hidalgo", which the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) congressman claimed caused him "moral damages". Rivera Flores wrote the book, while Granados Chapa wrote the prologue. The litigation also extended to the Miguel Ángel Porrúa and Libraria publishing houses for having published and type set the book, respectively, as well as the book cover's designer, Enrique Garnica Ortega, and photographer Héctor Rubio Traspeña.

In April, several freedom of expression organisations spoke out against irregularities in the development of the case. On 18 August, the president of Mexico City's Superior Court (Tribunal Superior de Justicia del Distrito Federal, TSJDF), Edgar Elías Azar, indicated the necessity to conduct an investigation into a probable delay in the proceedings, and one month later the sentencing in the case went forward.

The lawyer for the accused, Perla Gómez Gallardo, said that the judge determined that the book was "illicit" and that Sosa Castelán's accusation of having been wronged was valid.

Following the decision, Mexico City's Human Rights Commission (Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Distrito Federal, CDHDF) published a memorandum stating its opinion that the judge in the case had sentenced the writer, Rivera Flores, without having proof of his supposed wrongdoing. The CDHDF also expressed its concern over the characterisation of the book as an "illicit" work when it was based on testimonies and information gleaned from newspapers.

Gómez has indicated that she will appeal the sentence before the TSJDF and could even take the case to the national level.

Updates the Granados Chapa and Rivera Flores case:

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