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Columnist convicted of defamation for stating his opinion about a politician's behaviour

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 9 January 2007, Lima's 41st Criminal Court found historian Nelson Manrique, a columnist for the newspaper "Perú 2"1, guilty of defaming Rafael Rey, current Minister for Production, who sued Manrique in November 2005 when he was a member of Congress. The tribunal ordered the historian to pay 3 thousand soles (approx. US$950) as compensation for damages, and abstained from issuing its conviction for a year.

Between April and May 2005, Manrique wrote in his columns that Rey and his party, CODE-Renovación, forged signatures in order to be able to register to participate in the 2000 general elections. He based this accusation on his own deductions and on public information. He categorized the alleged behaviour as "large-scale fraud of the country". Rey replied publicly that both Manrique's deductions and the information he based his accusations on were false.

The historian was initially absolved of defamation. After Rey appealed, the Fifth Bench Specializing in Criminal Cases (Quinta Sala Especializada en lo Penal) overturned the initial ruling, on the basis that even if the matter was of public interest, Manrique had focused his opinions on Rey. Using the same logic, the 41st Criminal Court found Manrique guilty.

Manrique appealed the verdict and the case is now being returned to the Fifth Criminal Bench, which had already declared him guilty on a previous occasion. This guarantees that the columnist's appeal will now be rejected.

After reading Manrique's articles, IPYS has concluded that he exercised his right to express an opinion, and that he cannot be punished by any judge for having done so without violating the Constitution and international agreements signed by Peru. IPYS is also concerned that the same court that revoked the initial acquittal is now analyzing the appeal.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Send appeals to the Fifth Criminal Bench:
- asking it to reverse the ruling, given that Manrique stated his opinion on a matter of public interest, which he has a constitutional right to do

APPEALS TO:

Donayre Mavila, Rosario, vocal
Escobar Antezano, Carlos, vocal
Vidal Morales Juan Carlos, vocal
(Judges)
Corte Superior de Justicia de Lima
Quinta Sala Especializada en lo Penal para Procesos con Reos Libres
Av. Abancay cdra. 5 s/n. Edificio Anselmo Barreto León
Lima, Perú
Tel: +511 426 5010 (ext. 1220, 1228, 1107, 1218)
Fax: +511 427 1600

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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