Two men convicted in radio journalist’s murder

New York, April 18, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes Wednesday’s conviction of two men by a Peruvian court in the March 2007 murder of radio journalist Miguel Pérez Julca.

A court in the northwestern Peruvian city of Jaén convicted Juan Hurtado Vásquez of masterminding Pérez’s murder and Nazario Coronel Ramírez, also known as “Chamaya,” of participating in the crime, according to local news reports. Hurtado was handed a 27-year prison sentence and Coronel was sentenced to 19 years, reported the Lima-based daily El Comercio. The court also ordered the two men to pay the journalist’s family a sum of 35,000 Peruvian soles (US$13,000) as compensation, said El Comercio.

“We welcome the conviction of Juan Hurtado Vásquez and Nazario Coronel Ramírez,” said CPJ Senior Americas Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría. “This is a step forward in the fight against impunity in the murder of journalists throughout the Americas.”

Pérez, host of the radio program “El Informativo del Pueblo” (“Bulletin of the People”) on the Jaén-based station Radio Éxitos, was shot and killed by two hooded gunmen on a motorcycle in front of his wife and children on March 17, 2007, according to news reports. Pérez’s wife, Nelly Guevara, was wounded in the attack. Pérez, 38, covered local crime and alleged government corruption. Guevara told local reporters that her husband had received death threats on his cell phone in the weeks prior to his death.

Investigators said Hurtado was angered by on-air criticism of his girlfriend, the director of a local nonprofit organization. According to Peruvian press reports, Coronel confessed during the trial that he had driven the motorcycle from which Pérez was shot. The two men have appealed Wednesday’s decision.

Elvia Mendoza Linares and Dilber Cabada Arteaga are also accused of participating in Pérez’s murder. Their trial is scheduled to begin on April 22, said reports in the local press. The Peruvian National Police are still looking for a fifth individual, Sabino Sánchez Ayala, also known as “Chino Ayala,” who investigators believe was the person who shot Pérez, according to the local press freedom group Instituto Prensa y Sociedad.