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Paraguayan journalist Cándido Figueredo Ruiz, pictured in September 2015. A judge signed an order releasing an alleged drug trafficker who threatened to kill Figueredo. (AP/Jorge Saenz)

Paraguayan judge releases drug trafficker who had planned to kill journalist

September 11, 2017 3:29 PM ET

New York, September 11, 2017--The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned for the safety of Paraguayan journalist Cándido Figueredo Ruiz following the release from prison of an alleged drug trafficker who had previously planned to kill him.

A judge in the Paraguayan town of Capitán Bado, on the border with Brazil, signed an order on September 2 freeing Felipe Escurra Rodríguez, citing a lack of sufficient evidence, according to news reports. Escurra was arrested in August 2016 and faces multiple drug trafficking and weapons charges.

In 2012, Brazilian police informed Figueredo -- who reports from the border town of Pedro Juan Caballero for national daily ABC Color -- of an intercepted phone call in which Escurra discussed plans to kill Figueredo in retaliation for his stories about Escurra's involvement with clandestine airstrips.

"This decision increases the danger for one of Paraguay's most at-risk journalists," said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. "The release of a man who has threatened to kill Cándido Figueredo only increases the responsibility of the authorities to ensure his safety and freedom from fear."

Figueredo has lived under 24-hour police protection for more than two decades following years of death threats for his coverage of organized crime and drug trafficking. CPJ recognized Figueredo's courage with an International Press Freedom Award in 2015.

Figueredo told CPJ today he is concerned that Escurra will try to follow through on his threats now that he is free, or that others might take advantage of the situation to settle their own grudges against him and ABC Color.

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