News

September 10, 2010 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Prosecutor removed from case against former Telesur reporter


The prosecutor who initiated legal proceedings against former Telesur reporter William Parra, retired military officer Ricardo Bejarano, was removed from the case yesterday and was relieved of his post within the anti-terrorism section of the attorney-general’s office. No reason was given for the move, which came after irregularities were pointed out in the proceedings against Parra. His removal from the case had been requested by Parra’s defence lawyers. Bejarano obtained an international warrant for the arrest of Parra, now a political exile in Venezuela, on a charge of complicity with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The accusation was based on files supposedly found in the laptop of FARC deputy commander Raúl Reyes, who was killed in 2008. Parra’s lawyers recently reiterated a request for access to the files, which Bejarano never provided. -------------------------------------- 09.09.10 - Belated proceedings against former Telesur reporter William Parra Reporters Without Borders is disturbed to learn that an international arrest warrant was issued on 6 September for independent TV producer William Parra on charges of criminal association and financing terrorism because of his alleged links with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Parra’s name reportedly appears in several emails found in the laptop of FARC deputy commander Raúl Reyes, who was killed by the Colombian military while in Ecuador in March 2008. A former reporter for the Caracas-based pan-Latin American TV station Telesur, Parra was granted refugee status in Venezuela in March. Parra’s lawyer, Sandra Gamboa, told Reporters Without Borders that the manner in which the warrant was issued involves many irregularities and violates Parra’s defence rights. Reporters Without Borders questions the belated reactivation of this case given the circumstances and the Colombian government’s previous harassment of Telesur and its employees. Parra must meanwhile benefit from all the guarantees provided by Colombian and international law. According to Gamboa, the warrant also violates the rules of international law, inasmuch as Parra is an exile in Venezuela and has refugee status there. In principle, he cannot be handed over to the Colombian authorities and the Colombians cannot request his extradition. Reporters Without Borders hopes these provisions are respected. Parra has been targeted by the Colombia authorities ever since he joined Telesur in 2006. After leaving Telesur two years later, he made three documentaries for the station as an independent producer. The head of the Colombian police, Gen. Oscar Naranjo accused him in 2007 of “manipulation and complicity with the FARC” in connection with the June 2007 abduction of Capt. Guillermo Javier Solórzano, who was interviewed by Parra while held hostage. Another Telesur correspondent, Freddy Muñoz, was threatened and detained by Colombia paramilitaries in 2006 for allegedly being a FARC member after a doctored photo was circulated. The warrant for Parra has been issued at what is proving to be a difficult time for the Colombia media since Juan Manuel Santos’ installation as president just a month ago. The most serious recent cases including an attempt to murder the editor of the magazine El Norte, Marco Tulio Valencia, on 30 August in the department of Tolima, repeated threats against Teleantioquia Noticias correspondent Luis Carlos Cervantes and the 29 August sabotaging of community radio station Puerto Wilches Estéreo, which is still off the air. Reporters Without Borders fears that the hostile climate could lead to a new campaign of smears and attacks on journalists who were harassed and kept under close surveillance during the previous presidency of Alvaro Uribe because of their opinions. (photo : www.diariodelhuila.com)