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Peru27 July 2006

Outrage at release of former mayor and two thugs serving sentences for radio journalist’s murder

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the release three men who were serving long prison sentences for the February 2004 murder of radio journalist Antonio de la Torre Echandía in the western region of Ancash. Former Yungay mayor Amaro León León and two associates, Antonio Torre Camones and Pedro Ángeles Figueroa, were freed on the orders of the Ancash supreme court on 20 July.

“Their release, presumably the prelude to the quashing of their convictions, is a scandalous denial of justice and a windfall for the enemies of press freedom,” Reporters Without Borders said. “What a victory for imupunity! This decision must been the result of political pressure, the venal use of contacts in high places or some kind of horse-trading. It is also an insult to De la Torre’s memory and his family.”

The organisation added: “Our reaction will not just be one of anger. If necessary, we will take this case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.”

Sentenced on appeal last December to 17 years in prison, mayor León and his two thugs were serving their sentences in Huaraz prison. On 20 July, the Ancash regional supreme court sent the prison an order for their immediate release on the grounds that the national supreme court had found the evidence against them to be insufficient and no more detention orders were pending. The national supreme court ruling appears to be final, with no possibility of appeal.

León was convicted of ordering De la Torre’s murder on 14 February 2004 in order to prevent him from broadcasting a report about him on his programme ‘Con verdad y justicia’ (With Truth and Justice) on Radio Orbita. De la Torre had criticised the mayor on his programme and let listeners criticise him on the air as well. León’s influential contacts as a leading businessman and politician appear to account for the leniency the judges have just shown him.

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