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Chile18 January 2002

Businessman faces charges for "contempt" filed by Supreme Court

Update - 18 January 2002

On 15 January, Eduardo Yáñez was officially accused and immediately put in jail. The day after, the Court of appeal of Santiago decided to free him on bail. Eduardo Yáñez had to pay a 100 000 pesos (169 euros) bail. He is still accused of "contempt" to the Supreme Court.

January 10 2002

In a letter to Supreme Court Chair Mario Garrido, RSF protested the charges brought against Eduardo Yáñez for "insulting the authorities" ("desacato contra la autoridad"). The charge was filed in accordance with Articles 263 and 264 of the Criminal Code, which provide for a punishment of up to five years and one day in prison for the crime of "insulting the authorities". RSF recalled that, according to Principle 11 of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ (IACHR) Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, "laws that penalise offensive expression directed at public officials . restrict freedom of expression and the right to information". "It is unacceptable that the expression of an opinion is punished with a prison sentence," declared RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. "The recent adoption of a new press law has not eradicated all threats against freedom of expression in Chile," he observed. The organisation asked Garrido to ensure that the Supreme Court’s case is withdrawn.

According to information collected by RSF, during the 28 November 2001 episode of "El termómetro" ("The thermometer"), broadcast on the Chilevisión television station, referring to a judicial error, Yáñez stated that the Chilean justice system was "immoral, cowardly and corrupt," and the judges act "idiotically." After studying his statements, the Supreme Court filed a case for "insulting the authorities" against Yáñez. Juan Muñoz, Appeals Tribunal judge in charge of overseeing the case, gave the two parties until 15 January 2002 to reach an amicable solution. Once this date is past, Yáñez could face detention. The businessman has presented his excuses to the Supreme Court three times, but so far they have not been accepted.

On 4 June, Article 6(b) of the State Security Law (Ley de Seguridad Interior del Estado, LSIED), was repealed. Previously, the article provided for up to five years’ imprisonment for individuals who "insult", "slander" or "libel" high-level government officials. According to the international human rights organisation Human Rights Watch, since the country’s return to democracy in 1990, about thirty persons had been threatened with facing charges under this article. Nevertheless, the legislation reform did not do away with terms of imprisonment for press law violations, nor the crime of "contempt" ("desacato").

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