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Argentine court orders early release of individual convicted for journalist's murder

Argentinian court orders early release of individual convicted for plotting journalist's murder

Judicial authorities in Argentina have ordered the release of Gregorios Ríos, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for plotting the murder of José Luiz Cabezas, a photographer killed in January 1997, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has reported.

"We shall never forget Cabezas," said Celso Schroeder, president of the Federation of Latin America and Caribbean Journalists (FEPALC) and regional IFJ affiliate, "and we wish to express very clearly our feeling of utter dismay that the person who ordered the kidnapping, torture and the cruel murder of Cabezas is released by the same Court of Appeal and Justice which had sentenced him to life imprisonment."

José Luis Cabezas was a news photographer who worked for Noticias magazine. He was murdered on January 25, 1997, at the Pinamar beach resort. Cabezas was abducted soon after he left a birthday party thrown for Oscar Andreani, a postal service mogul. He was beaten, handcuffed, tortured, and taken to a pit in the countryside. There he was killed with two shots to the head. His body was placed inside a vehicle rented by Noticias, and burned.

Out of the nine people convicted for his murder, only two have not had their sentence reduced and remain in prison. The release of Ríos was ordered last week.

FEPALC declared that "the culture of impunity prevents" holding Cabezas's murderers properly to account. IFJ expressed its total solidarity with colleagues of the Argentinean Federation of Press Workers (FATPREN) who have been campaigning for justice in the Cabezas murder case. There remains the possibility for an appeal to the Supreme Court against the early release, IFJ said and pledged to continue to call for justice and the end of impunity for José Luis Cabezas's killers.

The Cabezas case trial ended in February 2000. Lawyers for the defence appealed the sentences before the Appeals Court, which determines if due process has been followed in a trial. All the individuals accused of having had a role in Cabezas's assassination had been sentenced to life in prison. Buenos Aires police officer Gustavo Prellezo, the leader of the gang that assassinated Cabezas, received the highest possible term of life imprisonment without possibility of parole.

After deliberating on the matter for almost four years, the court's First Chamber on November 13, 2003 reduced the sentences of the convicted, except that of Prellezo. Miguel Retana, one of the four individuals who allegedly formed part of the criminal gang named 'Los Horneros', died. Gustavo González's and Horacio Braga's sentences were reduced to 20 years, whereas José Luis Auge's sentence was reduced to 18 years. The sentences of police officers Sergio Camaratta and Aníbal Luna were reduced to 25 and 24 years, respectively. Gregorio Ríos, deceased businessman Alfredo Yabrán's bodyguard, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment, at that time faced 27 years in prison.

Argentine law stipulates that the time spent in prison while a convicted individual's sentence is being deliberated counts as double the time served towards the person's sentence, according to Asociación para la Defensa del Periodismo Independiente (PERIODISTAS). The accused in the Cabezas were considered to have already "spent" 10 years in prison. Prisoners have the opportunity of being released for good behaviour after completing two-thirds of their sentence. As a result, those who faced sentences of 12-18 years could qualify for early release.

Date posted: November 13, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 318