Culiacán, February 28, 2020 – The Committee to Protect Journalists today welcomed the conviction of one of the murderers of Mexican journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas, and urged authorities to bring all the perpetrators, including the mastermind, to justice.
Yesterday, a federal court in Culiacán, the capital of the northern Mexican state of Sinaloa, sentenced Heriberto “N,” alias “El Koala,” to 14 years and eight months in prison for his participation in the 2017 killing of Valdez. The verdict was a result of an abbreviated trial, similar to a plea bargain, in which El Koala assumed responsibility for his role in the murder of the reporter, a 2011 recipient of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award.
CPJ attended the trial.
El Koala is one of two men on trial for carrying out the killing of Valdez, who was shot dead on May 15, 2017, near the offices of Ríodoce, the investigative weekly he co-founded in 2003. The second suspect, Juan Francisco “N,” alias “El Quillo,” rejected the prosecution’s offer of a plea bargain. The conviction of El Koala is the first on the federal level in a murder case of a journalist under Mexico’s new justice system, which includes public trials and a presumption of innocence and was fully implemented in 2016.
“The conviction of ‘El Koala’ is a welcome step forward in the murder of one of Mexico’s most valiant and independent critical voices — a case that has languished with no justice for far too long,” said Jan-Albert Hootsen, Mexico’s CPJ Representative. “However, Mexican authorities must do everything in their power to bring all those involved to court, both to serve justice for Javier Valdez and as the only hope of curbing rampant impunity in journalist murders.”
The alleged mastermind of the murder has yet to be tried in Mexico. Federal authorities recently issued an arrest warrant for Dámaso López Serrano, alias “El Mini Lic,” who they believe ordered the killing of Valdez, according to news reports. López Serrano, the alleged leader of an offshoot gang of the Sinaloa Cartel, a notorious organized crime group based in the state of the same name, surrendered himself to U.S. authorities on July 27, 2017.