CPJ hails conviction in Venezuelan journalist’s murder

New York, May 21, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the conviction of a former police officer in connection with the 2009 murder of Venezuelan journalist Orel Sambrano in the northern city of Valencia.

A court in Carabobo state sentenced Rafael Segundo Pérez, a former Carabobo police sergeant, to 25 years in prison on Tuesday on conspiracy charges related to the murder, according to Venezuelan press reports. Pérez was also convicted of participating in the 2009 killing of a local veterinarian, according to local news accounts.

Pérez had been arrested by Venezuelan authorities in February 2009 in connection with Sambrano’s killing. The court found that Pérez had monitored Sambrano’s daily routine and provided the information to the killers, the Caracas-based newspaper El Nacional reported.

“We hail the conviction of Rafael Segundo Pérez in Sambrano’s killing,” Americas Senior Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría said. “Venezuelan authorities must now ensure that all those responsible for the journalist’s murder, including the mastermind, are brought to justice.”

Authorities allege that local businessman Walid Makled plotted the crime and that former police officer David Antonio Yánez Inciarte and two members of the Los Piloneros criminal gang, Arístides José Carvajal Salgado and Víctor Reales Hoyo, carried out the slaying, according to local press reports. Carvajal was identified as the gunman.

Venezuelan investigative police, known as CIPC, arrested Yánez during a February raid in the city of Moron, Carabobo state, according to press reports. Reales and Makled remain fugitives. Carvajal died in a shooting involving the Venezuelan investigative police, the national newspaper El Universal reported on March 27.

Sambrano, 62, director of the political weekly ABC de la Semana and the broadcaster Radio América, was shot by a motorcycle-riding assailant on January 16, 2009, outside a video store in Valencia, according to local news reports and CPJ interviews. The journalist, who was also a practicing lawyer, was well-respected locally for his investigations and commentary on local politics, CPJ research found.