Guatemala: RSF welcomes court decision overturning the conviction of elPeriodico publisher Jose Rubén Zamora, but calls for his immediate release
A Guatemalan appeals court has overturned the six-year prison sentence imposed in June on trumped-up charges of money laundering against journalist Jose Rubén Zamora, founder of the newspaper elPeriodico. The court ordered that a retrial be held, keeping Zamora in detention. It is more urgent than ever that Zamora, who has already been detained for more than a year, is released without further delay.
On 13 October, the Second Chamber of the Court of Appeals of Guatemala annulled the sentence imposed in June on José Rubén Zamora, journalist and founder of the newspaper elPeriodico. Detained since 29 July 2022, Zamora was sentenced on 14 June 2023 to six years in prison on trumped-up money-laundering charges based on nothing more than an absence of documentary justification for the origin of a transfer intended to keep elPeriódico afloat.
The court ordered that the case be sent back to court and a date be set for a retrial. Zamora, who also faces charges of using false documents, must remain in detention in the meantime.
RSF welcomes the court's decision to overturn an unjust conviction that followed a trial marred by irregularities, and in a case intended to persecute one of the country's greatest emblems of press freedom. The decision raises hopes for a fair trial and subsequent full acquittal. It is vital that Zamora, who has already been detained for more than a year, is released and can await the retrial in freedom.
The decision was based on an appeal filed by the National Attorney General's Office on the grounds that there were problems of form in the case against Zamora.
During a joint mission to the country last May, RSF representatives were able to visit Zamora in detention, where he reported he had been subject to mistreatment. RSF also observed other examples of judicial harassment targeting journalists who investigate corruption or simply cover the trials of those close to power. The criminalisation of journalism in Guatemala has increased significantly in recent years.
RSF continues to campaign for the release of José Rubén Zamora as a global priority, and will deliver an international petition calling for Zamora’s release and a stop to the criminalisation of journalism in Guatemala to President-elect Bernardo Arévalo following his inauguration in January.