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Nicaragua28 January 2005

Ex-mayor found guilty of deliberately shooting journalist María José Bravo

Eugenio Hernández, the former mayor of El Ayote, was convicted at the end of 20-hour trial yesterday of deliberately killing journalist María José Bravo in Juigalpa, 97 km east of Managua, on 9 November 2004.

A member of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC), Hernández was found guilty by Judge Rosa Inés Osorio of "murder with premeditation and perjury with regard to the evidence against him and the testimonies of 18 persons," state prosecutor Aurora Amador said.

La Prensa editor Eduardo Enriquez testified that Bravo had received death threats prior to the murder. Expert witnesses said Hernández shot her with a 38-calibre Astra revolver hidden inside a red bag. He faces a sentence of between 14 and 30 years in prison. No date has been set for sentencing.

24.11.2004 - Police and forensic experts clash over killing of María José Bravo The first hearing since journalist María José Bravo’s death was held on 17 November. The autopsy report presented at the hearing said she was killed by a shot to the chest fired at point-blank rage. But the police revised their initial position that the shooting was deliberate, now claiming the shot ricocheted twice before hitting Bravo. The prosecutor said the former mayor would continue to be charged with intentional homicide and that it was up to a judge to decide.

16.11.2004 - Police rule out possibility that shooting of María José Bravo was accidental

The possibility that the 9 November fatal shooting of journalist María José Bravo might have been accidental has been ruled out by the police since 12 November. The judge in charge of the case, Raquel Montiel, said there was enough evidence to keep the former mayor of El Ayote, Eugenio Hernández González, under arrest. Witnesses allege that just before the shooting, Hernández, a member of the right-wing PLC party, blamed journalists for the right’s defeat in the 7 November municipal elections.

10.11.2004 - Journalists shot dead in clashes following municipal elections

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the fatal shooting of reporter María José Bravo as she was covering clashes near a vote-counting centre yesterday in Juigalpa (in Chontales department), 140 km south of Managua, two days after municipal elections were held throughout Nicaragua.

"With the exact circumstances of Bravo’s death still unclear, we call for a thorough investigation to establish the source of the shots, including an autopsy and a ballistics report," the organisation said in a letter to interior minister Julio Vega Pasquier.

Bravo, a 26-year-old correspondent for both the Hoy and La Prensa dailies, was hit in the chest by at least one and possibly as many as three shots, sources said.

It is still not known why the shots were fired, but it seems she was caught in a clash between supporters of two rival right-wing parties, the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) and the Alliance for the Republic (Apre). A police spokesperson said Bravo was shot in the heart and was dead on arrival at a hospital.

Police arrested three suspects, including the former PLC mayor of El Ayote, Eugenio Hernández, who is alleged to have fired the shots.

The results of the municipal elections have been the subject of much contention, with the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) winning a majority of the municipalities for the first time in 14 years.

Bravo is the second journalist to be shot dead this year in Nicaragua. Carlos Guadamuz was gunned down at point-blank range outside the studios of his TV station, Canal 23 de Noticias de Nicaragua (CDNN), on 10 February. The gunman was sentenced to 18 years in prison but his alleged accomplices were acquitted. Previously, no journalist had been killed in Nicaragua for years.

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