Former Pucallpa mayor acquitted of murder for 2004 slaying of journalist

The former mayor of Peruvian frontier jungle town was acquitted Monday by a Lima court of charges that he ordered the 2004 murder of a radio journalist who had accused him on-air of corruption and cocaine trafficking, Radio Programas Peru reported.

Judge Jorge Aguinaga of Lima’s Superior Court said there was insufficient evidence to convict Luis Valdez of ordering the assassination of radio commentator Alberto Rivera. He added that the prosecutions witnesses provided contradictory testimony. Prosecutors had sought 20 years for Valdez.

Former Judge Solio Ramírez, who was accused of ordering Rivera’s assassination with Valdez, was also absolved of the murder.

Rivera was gunned down by hit men on April 21, 2004, in Pucallpa, the capital of Coronel Portillo. The day before his assassination, Rivera had told Agencia Peru that Valdez had well-known ties to drug traffickers and accused him of trying to ship more than 1,200 pounds of cocaine in the port city of Callao in 2003. The shipment was seized by police.

“(The court’s decision) is a big setback for freedom of expression,” Juan José Quispe of the Institute for Legal Defense told Ideele Radio. “It is impossible that the testimonies have been contradictory… Each time the testimonies were given they clearly show there was an interest by the two accused to eliminate (Rivera).”

In February 2006, five men were found guilty in a regional court carrying out Rivera’s assassination. According to Reporters Without Borders, they received sentences between 10 and 30 years in prison.

Rivera was the president of a regional journalists federation and host of a program on Radio Frecuencia Oriental called “Transparencia.”

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