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Peru16 November 2007

Court clears mayor said to have ordered journalist’s murder

The superior court of the east-central regional of Ucayali acquitted the mayor of Pucallpa, Luis Valdez Villacorta, on 14 November of ordering the murder of journalist Alberto Rivera Fernández, of the radio station Frecuencia Oriental, on 21 April 2004. The mayor’s former right-hand man, town councillor Solio Ramírez Garay, was also cleared.

Hitman Lito “Chino Lito” Fasabi was sentenced to 35 years in prison, however, and his accomplice Alex “Trolón” Panduro Ventura, Ramírez’ former bodyguard, to 20 years. They were together ordered to pay a total of 100,000 new sols (€23,000) in damages.

Lawyers for Rivera Fernández’ family and associated parties, along with Reporters Without Borders, deplored the court’s verdicts in view of the solid evidence against the mayor.

10.04.06 - Judge rescinds arrest orders for mayor and municipal councillor in radio presenter’s murder

Reporters Without Borders voiced dismay today at a judge’s decision in the Amazonian city of Pucallpa on 7 April to rescind the orders issued four days before by another judge for the arrest of mayor Luis Valdez Villacorta and municipal councillor Solio Ramírez Garay for allegedly instigating the April 2004 murder of journalist Alberto Rivera Fernández.

“We are really shocked by judge Eleana Tuesta’s decision, which seems to ignore the serious charges against these two men,” the press freedom organisation said. “Furthermore, her release order came after they had already fled, behaving as if they were gulity. So there is reason for questioning the integrity of this court at a point when the proceedings were close to concluding.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “Why was the case suddenly transferred from one judge to another? Are the suspected instigators of Rivera’s murder being protected just because they are elected officials? Do the judicial authorities think they have done enough in this case just by bringing the hit men to justice?”

Valdez and Ramírez were simply required to report regularly to the authorities until 3 April, when judge Edgar Padilla Vásquez of the fourth Pucallpa criminal court ordered their arrest because of the claim by Lito “Chino Lito” Fasabi Pizango that they paid him to murder Rivera, a radio Frecuencia Oriental presenter who was gunned down on 21 April 2004.

Judge Tuesta, who is assigned to the same court, rescinded the order four days later on the grounds of a procedural irregularity. Meanwhile, Valdez and Ramírez have become fugitives from justice. The local police said it has not been able to locate them although it seems that Valdez checked into a Pucallpa clinic.

Five people were convicted on 7 February of being intermediaries or perpetrators of Rivera’s murder and were given sentences ranging from 10 to 30 years in prison.

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