Guatemala: Court decision for Zamora’s release to house arrest a welcome step, but the urgent need remains for reciprocal decisions in two other cases against him

The decision of Guatemala’s Ninth Criminal Court to grant elPeriódico publisher Jose Rubén Zamora's request for substitutive measures is an important and positive step, but reciprocal decisions are needed in two other cases against him to allow for his release from prison. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes the ruling and underscores the urgent need for rapid judicial action to allow for Zamora’s release without further delay.

On 15 May, Guatemala’s Ninth Criminal Court ordered the release of publisher Jose Rubén Zamora, detained for nearly two years on money-laundering charges. The three judges ruled unanimously that there was no longer justification to keep Zamora in jail, noting that there was no risk of absconding and that he was not considered a threat to the investigation. The court decision stipulates that the elPeriódico newspaper founder should be released to house arrest while the case against him is ongoing. It requires Zamora to appear before the Public Prosecutor's Office once a month and prohibits him from leaving the country. 

However, due to two other ongoing cases against Zamora, which have been systematically postponed on several occasions over the past year, he must remain detained until reciprocal decisions are reached in the other cases.

"We welcome the court's decision in favour of Jose Rubén Zamora, which serves as a first step towards redressing the injustice that put him behind bars. However, it is imperative that this decision is not undermined by further inexplicable court delays, as we have seen so many times over the past year in other spurious cases against Zamora. Each day that he now remains detained is a further injustice. The world will be carefully watching the next steps of the Guatemalan judiciary".

Artur Romeu
Director of RSF's Latin America Office

The court decision followed the announcement on 14 May that Zamora had won the prestigious 2024 Gabo Award for Excellence “for his more than three decades of tenacious and courageous professional work dedicated to uncovering the corruption and human rights abuses that have plagued Guatemala.” Speaking at a media briefing in London organised by RSF that same day, Zamora’s son, Jose Carlos Zamora, highlighted the urgent need for sustained international attention to his father’s case while the judicial processes continue in Guatemala.

Zamora has been held at the Mariscal Zavala Center in Guatemala City for more than 650 days. At 67 years old, he has been detained since 29 July 2022 on the basis of a preventive prison order relating to the money-laundering case against him, for which he was sentenced to six years in prison in June 2023. However, this conviction was overturned by the appellate court in October 2023 due to procedural irregularities raised by the prosecution. In addition, Zamora is also facing a spurious obstruction of justice case, as well as a third case on allegations of forging signatures on immigration control documents.

Guatemala is ranked 138th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2024 World Press Freedom Index.

138/ 180
Score : 42.28
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