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Venezuelan court stops judge from using social media

On June 15, 2013, Marilda Ríos, head judge at a Caracas court, issued a precautionary measure prohibiting María Lourdes Afiuni (a judge who was jailed pending a criminal suit) from speaking to the national and international media and expressing herself on social media. This prohibition was issued within the framework of the decision of granting her parole on account of health difficulties.

José Amalio Graterol, Afiuni's lawyer, informed IPYS-Venezuela that the measure prohibiting the judge from speaking on her case to the national and international media was ratified, as stipulated in article 242 of the Organic Criminal Procedural Code. She was also banned from using social networks.

Graterol explained that these measures violate article 57 of the constitution of the Bolivarian republic of Venezuela, which sets forth that: “Every person has a right to freely express his or her thoughts, ideas and opinions verbally, in writing or in any other form of expression, and to make use therefor of any means of communicating or disseminating, free from censorship”.

The precautionary measure issued by the court implies that Afiuni shall continue being judged under parole; she must present herself every 15 days at the courts, and is forbidden from leaving the country.

Judge María Lourdes Afiuni was arbitrarily arrested in December 2009, as a result of an order to apprehend her issued by a court, after she granted parole to entrepreneur Eligio Cedeño, who was on trial for alleged corruption charges. This ruling enabled Cedeño to leave the palace of justice headquarters, and leave the country and go to the United States.

To date, since February 2011 she had been locked up under arrest at a national correctional facility for women, in the outskirts of Caracas. Later, the court issued a house arrest order, under which she is now serving time.

Nelson Afiuni has told IPYS-Venezuela that will be the spokesperson for his sister - whose Twitter account is @mariafiuni - on the social networks.

Prior to this event, on November 23, 2012, after publishing his book "La Presa del Comandante" (loose translation "The Commander's Prey"), a journalistic investigation by Francisco Olivares, the ministry of penitentiary services requested that the Public Attorneys office start a criminal, civil and administrative investigation for slander and tort against judge María Lourdes Afiuni. This announcement was made by Isabel González, ex-director of the National Institute for Female Correctional services (Instituto Nacional de Orientación Femenina, INOF). In this center located in Los Teques, in the outskirts of Caracas, the judge was kept under arrest for close to two years.

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