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Colombia7 December 2007

New death threats made against journalist Gonzalo Guillén on his return from exile

Reporters Without Borders today voiced deep concern at new death threats telephoned to the correspondent in Colombia for US Spanish-language El Nuevo Herald, Gonzalo Guillén, who fled the country on 4 October after public accusations by President Alvaro Uribe, followed by death threats from a paramilitary group.

Now back in Bogotá, Guillén has been left to present his own case for slander against the president before the high court after his lawyer, who has also received death threats, decided to withdraw from the case.

The journalist was on 2 October publicly accused by Alvaro Uribe of being involved in the production of a book “Amando a Pablo, odiando a Escobar”, in which Virginia Vall, the former mistress of notorious drug-trafficker Pablo Escobar, said there were links between the head of state and Escobar, who was killed in 1993.

The El Nuevo Herald correspondent then said that he would hold Alvaro Uribe responsible for anything which might happen to himself and his family, since the accusations were groundless and put him in danger. He finally decided to leave the country after death threats were made against him (see 4 October press release).

“It is distressing to note that the justice system has done nothing to track down those responsible for the threats against Gonzalo Guillén,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“This attitude shows a desire to hush up this case. It is important to remember that this journalist frequently reported on the activities of paramilitaries and their alleged links with the government. We urge the justice system to react quickly and carry out a rigorous investigation so as not to allow impunity to win again.”

On his return to Colombia, Gonzalo Guillén laid a complaint for slander against the president before the high court in Bogotá but on 20 November his lawyer received telephone death threats against herself and her family and fearing for her safety, she pulled out of the case. The journalist himself received new death threats on 3 December.

Gonzalo Guillén laid a complaint about the intimidation against his lawyer to the unit for crimes against personal freedom in Bogotá, but the journalist said the prosecutor for this body refused to listen to a recording of the threats against the lawyer.

The judges’ response to Gonzalo Guillén’s complaint should be delivered, as legally required, on 10 December. The journalist fears that the proceedings could take longer, since the judicial year finishes on 14 December. This would mean the case would not resume until 8 January 2008 at the earliest.

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