GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Guatemalan authorities have arrested a well-known local journalist on charges of money laundering and blackmail, according to a prosecutor handling the case, a move that has sparked outrage from human rights activists.
Jose Ruben Zamora Marroquin, an outspoken government critic, was arrested on Friday evening, Rafael Curruchiche, head of the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity (FECI) said on social media, after police raided his home and office. office earlier.
Speaking from a cell in a video posted to Twitter on Saturday by a reporter from the local newspaper Prensa Libre, Zamora said he was going on a hunger strike as a sign of rejection of his persecution.
A Zamora lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
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Zamora, 65, founded the newspaper elPeriodico in 1996, a newspaper famous for its investigations which revealed several cases of government corruption.
“I want to clarify that the arrest has nothing to do with his quality as a journalist, but with a possible act of money laundering in his capacity as a businessman,” Curruchiche said.
An assistant FECI prosecutor, Samari Carolina Gomez Diaz, was also arrested for her possible involvement in the crime of leaking confidential information, linked to Zamora, Curruchiche added.
“It’s political persecution. I imagine there must be a conspiracy,” Zamora said on Friday as he made his way to the court, guarded by police. He was due to appear before a judge later on Saturday.
Curruchiche himself was included this month on the so-called Engel List, a list that names those the US government considers “corrupt and undemocratic” actors in the region.
Zamora’s arrest came amid a crackdown on prosecutors, judges, human rights activists, journalists and opposition officials by FECI, originally created to to attack the investigations carried out by the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) supported by the UN.
At least five Guatemalan journalists from different media are currently in exile. More than a dozen former FECI prosecutors, judges and human rights activists have fled Guatemala following complaints and arrest warrants issued against them by FECI.
Guatemalan chambers of commerce, the national human rights watchdog and international rights organizations have condemned Zamora’s arrest.
The administration of President Alejandro Giammattei has not commented on the case.
(Reporting by Sofia Menchu, Writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Diane Craft)
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