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Mexico23 June 2005

Son of president’s wife sues journalist

Manuel Bribiesca, the son of President Vicente Fox’s wife Marta Sahagún, said on 22 June he would sue journalist Olga Wornat and her publishers Grijalbo (Random House-Mondadori) for the contents of her book "Crónicas malditas." Five days earlier, a judge lifted a house arrest order that had been imposed on Wornat pending a decision on a claim by Fox’s wife that she had been "morally wronged" in the book.

21.06.05 - House arrest ends for journalist

A house arrest order imposed on journalist Olga Wornat on 6 May, pending a decision on a claim by President Vicente Fox’s wife Marta Sahagún that she had been "morally wronged," was lifted on 17 June by federal civil judge Carlos Miguel Jiménez Mora. He called on both parties to respect the other, failing which they would have to pay a fine equal to at least 50 days wages.

23.05.05 - Controversial Argentine journalist threatened "with flowers"

Argentine journalist Olga Wornat, the author of a controversial new book about Mexico called "Accursed Chronicles," received an anonymous written death threat in a wooden coffin-shaped box filled with orchids, sunflowers and tuberose which a bellboy left outside her room in Mexico City’s Nikko Hotel on 16 May.

The message said: "Madam, I congratulate you for the audacity of your writing but I must warn you that your life is in danger in our country. You could be the victim of an accident, which would truly be a pity for such a courageous woman. In my humble view, you should leave the country."

A young man in the uniform of the package delivery company Multipack had left the box at the hotel reception at 4:30 pm. Wornat immediately filed a complaint with the Mexico City public prosecutor, who ordered an investigation and sent four policemen to the hotel to take statements. The authorities also offered Wornat a bodyguard, but she declined, saying she intended "to continue living normally."

9.05.05 - Civil judge puts journalist in dispute with president’s wife under house arrest

Reporters Without Borders has protested after a civil judge placed journalist Olga Wornat, who is being sued by President Vincente Fox’s wife Marta Sahagún, under house arrest.

"It is surprising and shocking that house arrest can be used in a civil and not criminal case," said Reporters Without Borders. "Would this step, unprecedented in Mexico, have been taken if the complainant wasn’t the first lady?" it wondered.

"This case is not only a violation of free expression but also gives rise to a two-tier standard in the justice system."

The Argentine journalist and writer is the author of an unauthorised biography of Marta Sahagún entitled La Jefa that appeared in 2003, and a recent work Crónicas malditas (Accursed Chronicles) investigating the presidential couple and their entourage.

In the "Accursed Chronicles", Wornat claims that the first lady’s sons, particularly Manuel Bribiesca Sahagún, had been found guilty of influence-peddling and illegally enriching themselves through building sector contracts. She said that Manuel Bribiesca Sahagún had a private jet worth one million dollars.

Marta Sahagún’s personal secretary announced on 3 May that a case was being lodged against the journalist for "moral wrong". Civil federal judge Carlos Jiménez Mora admitted the claim on 6 May and placed Wornat under house arrest while awaiting his decision.

Manuel Bribiesca Sahagún, who denies the allegations in Wornat’s book, said on 8 May that he also intended to take her to court.

"I have been harassed for several days by people following me and watching me in the hotel where I live," Wornat told Reporters Without Borders, adding that her phone was being tapped. "I have never been so afraid," she said.

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