Mon. Sep 26th, 2022

By David Toro Escobar

Guatemala City, September 19 (EFE) .- The criminal case against the famous journalist José Ruben Zamora Marroquin in Guatemala depicts a “delicate” country and a judicial system close to being a “revenge game”, according to the correspondent’s lawyer Christian Ullet.

“Guatemala is facing a delicate phase, we must pay attention to the justice system, we cannot fall into that revenge game,” the Costa Rican jurist said in an interview with Efe.

Ulate stressed that there is a crackdown on specific targets in Guatemala, such as judges and prosecutors, leading the Central American country to an alarming “legal crisis.”

Lawyer Cristian Ullet (D) during the final hearing of Jose Ruben Zamora. EFE/Esteban Biba

In the case of Zamora Marroquin, the lawyer also indicated that the evidence presented by the Public Ministry (MP, Prosecutor’s Office) against the journalist was not credible.

“I want to walk away from here with my head held high because I’m innocent and I didn’t commit any crime,” Zamora Marroquin said to Ulat during a meeting in August, according to the jurists’ account.

Journalist, founder and president of the morning newspaper El Periodico, was arrested on July 29, just five days after his fierce criticism of Guatemalan President Alejandro Giamattei.

Later, on August 7, Zamora Marroquín was indicted for money laundering, influence peddling and blackmail by a decision of the Seventh Judge of the Judiciary of Guatemala, Freddy Orellana.

Rebuttal evidence

The case against the communicator is supported, according to the prosecutor’s office, by the testimony of former banker Ronald Garcia Navarro, who was indicted on corruption charges in 2017.

The former banker’s version indicates that the journalist allegedly received about $38,000 and did not want it to enter the regular banking system, so he sought help from García Navarro.

The former banker also said the journalist blackmailed him into agreeing to help him launder money.

According to the Public Ministry, Zamora Marroquin’s alleged money laundering offense took place on July 19 of this year, 10 days before he was caught.

The main evidence presented by prosecutors before Judge Orellana in August was a series of recordings of García Navarro’s meeting with Zamora.

“At no point did Jose Ruben Zamora hear on the audio that this money came from illegal activities and that he needed to smuggle it,” said Ulate Ife, who questioned the legality of the recordings due to the conditions they were in. Received by the Ministry of Public.

Another piece of evidence presented by the prosecutor’s office against the president of El Periodico is a package of $38,000 (300,000 quetzals in local currency) that Zamora Marroquin allegedly gave to García Navarrizo.

Ulate regretted that the bundles of bills were presented to the hearing without bank seals, which were originally in the possession of Zamora Marroquin and, according to him, were the key to verifying that the money had a legal source.

“What happened to that bank precinct? Who took them away? Did the same prosecutor’s office take them? We made a request to the prosecutor’s office and they told us that the bank seals for them are not relevant evidence for the case,” Ullet stressed.

The lawyer also emphasized that the bank seal is essential to verify the identity of the businessman who paid the journalist.

Similarly, Oulette indicated that in due course, the businessman who paid the journalist could testify on his behalf and explain that it was given voluntarily to help alleviate El Periodico’s financial problems.

Guatemalan journalist Jose Ruben Zamora, in a file photograph. EFE/Esteban Biba

Journalist’s health

Zamora Marroquin, who turned 66 in prison last August, is in stable health, although he had problems with high blood pressure in the early days of preventive detention, Ullet explained.

The journalist has been cut off from contact with the El Periodico team to avoid any interference in the ongoing investigation against him.

The communicator is imprisoned inside the Mariscal Zavala military barracks northeast of Guatemala City along with 200 high-profile prisoners, many of them denounced in the pages of El Periodico.

Ulette hopes that Guatemala does not fall into the judicial revenge game. “I believe that this is not the case and that Mr. José Ruben can prove before objective and impartial judges that the MP’s evidence is not even sufficient to bring him to trial,” he concluded.

In December, Judge Freddy Orellana will decide whether the evidence presented by the prosecutor’s office is enough to send the journalist to trial.

Web Editing: Natalia Sarmiento

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