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Guatemalan court orders release of journalist jailed for nearly 2 years on money laundering charges


A Guatemalan court ordered the release Wednesday of journalist José Rubén Zamora, jailed for nearly two years on money laundering charges.

Zamora, the 67-year-old founder of El Periodico newspaper, was sentenced to six years in prison last June for alleged money laundering. But that conviction and sentence were overturned by another court and a new trial ordered.

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For nearly two years, he has been kept in jail.

But on Wednesday, a judge ruled that there was no longer justification to keep him in jail, noting that he was not considered a flight risk or a threat to the investigation. Zamora will spend the rest of his time before a new trial on a conditional release.

He was ordered to post a bond of nearly $4,800.

Guatemala-Jailed-Journalist

Guatemalan journalist Jose Ruben Zamora, founder of El Periodico newspaper, arrives to court in handcuffs for a hearing in Guatemala City, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Zamora has been jailed for almost two years and seeks his release. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

“During my entire life I have been the victim of attacks, abductions, aggressions for the work that I do,” Zamora said during Wednesday’s hearing.

Cristina Gómez, his defense attorney, said that his detention was arbitrary.

Guatemala’s former human rights ombudsman Jorge Duque agreed to guarantee Zamora’s appearance at future hearings. “It is the least I can do,” Duque said. “I know him and I know that he will continue facing the process against him.”

Press freedom groups had decried his prosecution as politically motivated.

El Periodico published numerous investigations critical of former President Alejandro Giammattei.

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The charges stemmed from Zamora, 66, asking a friend to deposit a $38,000 donation to keep the newspaper going rather than depositing it himself. Zamora has said he did so because the donor did not want to be identified supporting an outlet in the sights of Giammattei.

The foundation of Nobel Prize winning writer Gabriel García Márquez awarded its excellence in journalism prize to Zamora on Tuesday.



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