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Journalist Paul Garay acquitted

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 28 October 2011, a division of the Supreme Court of Lima, Peru, acquitted Paul Garay Ramírez, a radio and TV journalist from the city of Pucallpa, in the Ucayali region, of defamation charges for which he had been sentenced to 18 months in prison by in a local court.

The journalist's lawyer, Víctor Valdez, informed his client immediately and confirmed the news to IPYS. He reported that Garay was happy with the acquittal.

The acquittal, which was issued by Judge Hugo Príncipe Trujillo, has established a hoped-for precedent for freedom of expression in Peru. The journalist's criminal record has been cleared and he is to be released immediately.

Garay, who has been serving his sentence since April, first in a prison in his native Ucayali and then in a maximum security facility in Lima, has also been exempted from paying a fine and 20,000 nuevos soles (approx. US$7,400) in civil reparation that were part of the sentence.

On 19 April, Garay was condemned to three years in prison for allegedly defaming Agustín López Cruz, a public prosecutor in Coronel Portillo, while he was a correspondent for the La Exitosa radio station in 2009. Following an appeal, on 27 July the Ucayali Superior Court of Justice reduced the sentence to 18 months.

Garay was the director of the "Polémica" programme broadcast by the Visión 47 TV station when he was arrested. His case was highly controversial because the judge who convicted him, Alcibiades Morote Mescua, and the public prosecutor who lodged the complaint against him had been criticised by the journalist for, among other things, shelving two serious corruption cases.

IPYS applauds Garay's acquittal and continues to advocate for the decriminalisation of "opinion cases".

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