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Newspaper editor, correspondent given two-year suspended prison sentences

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 22 September 2011, the editor of the "Perú 21" newspaper, Fritz Du Bois, and its correspondent in Arequipa, Gessler Ojeda Mercado, were convicted of crimes against honor and defamation. They were given a two-year suspended prison sentence and fined approximately 30,000 nuevos soles (approx. US$10,830). The Sixth Criminal Court in Arequipa, a region in southern Peru, issued the sentence.

The court case began with a lawsuit filed by the aunt of Ana María Solórzano Flores, who is a congressional representative for the governing party, Gana Perú. The plaintiff was offended by a 10 March newspaper article that linked Solórzano and some of her relatives to the prostitution business.

The court, presided by Judge Yuri Zegarra Calderón, found that Ojeda should be held accountable for the paper's 10 March front page, which read "Sordid Money", and a long article titled "The dark connections of Humala's No. 1 (Current president of Peru)". Du Bois was found responsible in connection with an opinion piece in the same edition, titled "Pantaleón and Aunt Pocha".

When consulted by different media outlets, Du Bois' lawyer, Augusto Loli, said that the ruling is "arbitrary, illegal and biased." He noted that they plan to appeal the sentence and will file a complaint against the judge.

IPYS believes the judge's decision constitutes a serious mistake because crimes of opinion should not be penalized, and expresses its concern about the sentence. This ruling constitutes a nefarious precedent for freedom of expression in Peru.
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