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Colombia18 May 2005

Two men get 28-year prison sentences for hiring hit-man who killed deputy editor

Reporters Without Borders today hailed the 28-year prison sentences passed by a Colombian court on 16 May on two men for hiring the contract killer who gunned down Orlando Sierra Hernández, the deputy editor of the local daily newspaper La Patria, in January 2002 in the central city of Manizales. The hit man was convicted previously.

"This conviction shows that impunity is not inevitable, and the sentence should serve as an example and warning to all press freedom predators and to all those who murder journalists in Colombia and elsewhere," the organization said.

"We nonetheless regret that only the gunman and the intermediaries have been convicted in this case and that the instigators of the murder have never been clearly identified," Reporters Without Borders added.

The court in Manizales, the capital of Caldas department, found Luis Miguel "Tilín" Tabares and Luis Arley "Pereque" Ortiz guilty of paying Luis Fernando Soto Zapata to kill Sierra. The court also ordered them to pay the victim’s family 149,000 dollars in damages. Soto is already serving a 19-year prison sentence.

Sierra was shot twice in the head on 30 January 2002 and died from his injuries two days later in a Caldas hospital. Aged 43 and an amateur philosopher and poet, he spent much of his time as a journalist investigating corruption.

Passing sentence, the judge called on the public prosecutor to relaunch the investigation "in view of the evidence against other persons implicated in this murder."

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