José Rubén Zamora

Guatemalan Journalist José Rubén Zamora Sentenced to Six Years in Prison in Money Laundering Case

José Rubén Zamora, the founder of a prominent Guatemalan newspaper, was sentenced to six years in prison on Wednesday in a money laundering case that has been widely criticized as a political persecution aimed at silencing a critical voice. A three-judge panel found José Rubén Zamora guilty and convicted him on a charge of money laundering, which was deemed to have affected the national economy and the stability of the financial system. However, he was cleared of additional charges of blackmail and influence peddling.

José Rubén Zamora Sentenced to Six Years in Prison

José Rubén Zamora

Zamora’s newspaper, El Periodico, was known for its fierce independence and its publication of investigations into corruption within the administrations of President Alejandro Giammattei and his predecessors. Zamora’s work has garnered international recognition. However, President Giammattei and his justice system have faced international criticism for their perceived erosion of democratic principles and the alleged weaponization of prosecutors and courts against political adversaries.

José Rubén Zamora

Before the verdict was announced, José Rubén Zamora addressed the court, asserting that his rights had been violated, including his right to a defense. He claimed that they had been treated like criminals and that evidence had been destroyed. In the lead-up to the trial, several of Zamora’s defense lawyers were arrested.

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Following the hearing, Rafael Curruchiche, the Attorney General’s special prosecutor against impunity who brought the charges against Zamora, expressed his disappointment and stated that prosecutors would likely appeal the sentence. He indicated that they would request the original 40-year sentence they had initially sought, suggesting that the prison time Zamora received was intended as compensation for those whose “name and reputation” he and his newspaper had allegedly destroyed.

The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) joins press freedom and pro-democracy groups worldwide has condemned the judgement . Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, said the “shameful” sentence was part of attempts by Giammattei’s government to “criminalize journalism,” and that it signaled an erosion of free speech in Guatemala.

“Guatemalan officials must end the absurd charade of criminal proceedings against him. It is time for José Ruben Zamora to be released, for his only ‘crime’ has been the fearless exercise of his profession.”