Dominican court sentences man to 30 years in journalist’s murderer

New York, May 3, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes Wednesday’s decision by a Dominican court to sentence a gang leader to 30 years in prison for the 2004 murder of local journalist Juan Emilio Andújar Matos.

A court in Azua also ordered Vladimir Pujols, leader of the drug trafficking gang “Los Sayayines,” to pay 1,300,000 pesos (US$40,945) to radio reporter Jorge Luis Sención, who witnessed the attack and was shot during a second ambush. Pujols’ lawyers told local reporters that he would appeal his conviction, according to Dominican press reports.

Another defendant, Ricardo Agramonte, was sentenced to five years in prison for conspiracy, Reuters reported. Other press reports identified him as a member of the gang. The three-judge panel said it was unable to sentence Maikel Bienvenido Agramonte, also accused of conspiracy, because he was 17 at the time of the murder, the Santo Domingo-based El Nuevo Diario. His case will be handed over to a local juvenile court, according to local press reports.

The conviction is unusual, according to CPJ research. The killers of journalists are brought to justice in less than 15 percent of cases.

“We applaud the efforts of authorities to seek justice in the murder of our colleague Juan Emilio Andújar Matos,” said CPJ Executive Director, Joel Simon. “We hope that the prosecution illustrates to governments in Latin America and around the world that impunity need not prevail.”

Andújar, host of Radio Azua’s weekly show “Encuentro Mil 60” and correspondent for the Santo Domingo­-based daily Listín Diario, was ambushed and killed by gunmen on September 14, 2004. Local news reports said the attack came moments after Andújar had reported on a bloody crime wave that pitted gang members against police in Azua, a city 75 miles (120 kilometers) south of Santo Domingo. Prior to the murder, Andújar and other local journalists had received death threats for their comments on an escalating crime wave.

Police arrested Pujols in March 2006, according to local press reports. Pujols was one of the two individuals accused of killing Andújar. A second suspect, Luis Tejeda Filpo, was shot to death in a confrontation with police two days after Andújar was murdered.