Two men convicted in Costa Rica murder

New York, December 20, 2007—Two men were sentenced yesterday to 35 years in prison for the murder of Costa Rican journalist Parmenio Medina, a popular radio host who was shot dead outside his home in July 2001. The Committee to Protect Journalists hails the conviction as a step forward in the fight against impunity.

A court in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, convicted businessman Omar Chaves of ordering Medina’s murder, and gunman Luis Alberto Aguirre Jaime of carrying it out. Father Mínor de Jesús Calvo Aguilar, the other accused mastermind, was acquitted in the murder case but convicted of fraud and sentenced to 15 years in jail. Chaves also got an additional 12-year jail term on the fraud charge. Six other suspects, accused of being intermediaries in the crime, were acquitted.

“We’re encouraged by the conviction of Chaves and Aguirre in the murder of our colleague Parmenio Medina,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “These prosecutions set the example for Latin American governments to follow so they can finally bring an end to impunity in the murders of journalists.”

The two-year trial was the longest in Costa Rican history. Hundreds of witnesses were called to testify. Key witnesses and the prosecutor were threatened during the process, the local press reported. Defense lawyers for the two men convicted said they will appeal the sentence.

Medina was the producer and host of the weekly radio program “La Patada” (The Kick) on Radio Monumental. At around 4:30 p.m. on the afternoon of July 7, 2001, his assailants shot him three times at close range with a 38-caliber weapon. Medina was shot once in the back and twice in the head. The attack occurred just outside the journalist’s home in the town of Santo Domingo de Heredia, about 6 miles (10 kilometers) northwest of San José. Medina was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Medina’s frequent criticism of official corruption had earned him numerous threats, and ultimately led to his murder. His accusations of alleged financial irregularities at the local Catholic station, Radio María, resulted in its closure and an investigation of its founder, Calvo. Chaves was one of Radio María’s main financial backers. The six other suspects in the hit were alleged intermediaries between the planners and the killer.

On the first anniversary of Medina’s death, CPJ published a report on his murder called “The Silence.” According to CPJ research, the killers of journalists have been brought to justice in fewer than 15 percent of journalist murders worldwide over the last decade.