A Guatemala City court on 25 February sentenced former armed forces member Eduviges Funes to 16 years in prison for his part in a raid on the home of El Periódico editor José Rubén Zamora on 24 June 2003, but acquitted the other defendant, fellow ex-soldier Belter Álvarez, for lack of evidence.
"It’s frustrating, because a protected witness and I identified both defendants," Zamora said. "I don’t understand this verdict. If one was convicted, the other one should have been too."
A total of 11 gunmen took part in the raid, threatening Zamora and his family for three hours. Zamora announced on 20 January 2004 that he had identified four of them with the help of the police and his newspaper’s own investigation. All four, including the two defendants in the trial, were members of the presidential military staff, a now-disbanded elite military intelligence unit involved in many human rights violations during the 1960-1996 civil war.
23.01.04-Managing director of daily elPeriódico has identified four of his assailants
Managing director of the daily elPeriódico, José Ruben Zamora, on 20 January revealed the identity of four of the 11 members of a commando which he said burst into his home on 24 June 2003. He managed to identify them through his own investigation that ran parallel to the police enquiry, he said. All four of those implicated in the assault were linked to the security forces of the former government. Zamora said he had passed on the information to former president Alfonso Portillo and the prosecutor-general Edgar Gutiérrez, neither of whom had ever acted on the information.
25.06.2003 - Great concern about attack on newspaper publisher
Reporters Without Borders said today it was "very concerned" about an attack on José Rubén Zamora, publisher of the daily paper elPeriódico, in which a dozen armed men went to his house on 24 June and threatened him and his family for three hours.
"This is a new setback for press freedom in Guatemala," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "Recent attacks on the media have focused on reporters and other editorial staff, but now a publisher has been the target. The fact that the gunmen wore no masks shows how little they feared the authorities. It is dangerous for the local media to report on corruption and human rights violations."
The press freedom organisation called on prosecutor-general Carlos David de León Argueta and interior minister José Adolfo Reyes Calderón to see that the attack did not go unpunished and asked to be kept informed of progress in the enquiry into the incident.
The gunmen gained entry to Zamora’s house by pretending they were police and government legal officials. They threatened him with their weapons, made him take off his clothes and tied his hands behind his back. They also hit two of his children. After three hours they left, warning him not to attack "top people" and threatening reprisals if he reported what had happened.
Along with other papers, elPeriódico has criticised alleged government corruption in recent weeks and Zamora has filed a legal complaint against President Alfonso Portillo, accusing him of trying to harass and intimidate him. Parliament set up an commission to look into the complaint and possibly lift the president’s immunity from prosecution.
Four elPeriódico journalists were physically attacked or threatened in March 2001 after reporting that government figures were involved in a financial scandal. On 2 March this year, intruders broke into the house of journalist Marielos Monzón after she criticised human rights violations in her weekly column in the daily paper Prensa Libre.