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Uruguay22 March 2007

Alleged drug trafficker threatens and assaults journalist

Reporters Without Borders today called for protection for journalist César Casavieja, founder and editor of the weekly Señal de alerta, who received death threats and was later assaulted after publishing a photo of a man suspected of drug-trafficking.

Casavieja was accosted and attacked by the alleged trafficker, Amir Alial González, alias “El Turco”, in the Mercado del Puerto area of Montevideo on 16 March.

The editor described to Reporters Without Borders what happened after Alial González got out of his car and headed towards him: “He was holding out his hand and smiling and I thought he wanted to talk to me,” he said.

“But he asked me my name and when I told him, he began hitting me about the face. Three police officers intervened but they let my attacker go and handcuffed me”.

The former reporter for Telenoche 4 TV and founder, in 2006, of the crime specialist weekly Señal de alerta, had been investigating the case since June last year, when Alial González had been arrested over a 100-kgs load of cocaine, about to be shipped through Portugal. Two months later Casavieja published the alleged trafficker’s photo in the paper.

Since publishing the photo, the editor and his family began receiving death threats, which he reported to the police. Officers handling the case also came in for threats, while Alial González sued Casavieja for “defamation”.

After his assault by Alial González on 16 March, the editor found himself accused of having assaulting the police officers. He explained, “The police report produced after the assault was changed: two officers were present instead of three and witnesses were said to have seen me physically attack the officers”.

The journalist said that “El Turco” was still at liberty even though he had admitted when arrested in June 2006, having carried out the loading, but denying “ever knowing anything about the drugs”.

“Drug-trafficking is a very high risk subject for the press,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “How can it be that César Casavieja’s assailant, who was arrested red-handed loading the cocaine, is now at large?

“But above all how is it possible that police let him go and arrested the victim? We call for protection for the journalist and for the interior ministry to be vigilant about this case.”

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