Chiapas state police detained Ksheratto, columnist for the daily Cuarto Poder, outside his home in the southern city of Tuxtla Gutiérrez for allegedly violating a condition of bail by failing to make a weekly court appearance, according to news reports and a CPJ source. Ksheratto was taken to a maximum security prison in the town of Cintalapa, where he was being held when CPJ conducted its annual census on December 1. Ksheratto denied violating the condition.
The case stemmed from a 2003 criminal defamation complaint. While that charge is pending, the columnist is required to appear in court every week to sign documentation before a judge in Cintalapa, 65 miles (120 kilometers) from his home, the daily La Jornada reported. Ksheratto had been detained on February 4 and held for 18 days on a similar bail violation allegation.
The underlying case against Ksheratto stems from two August 2002 articles on alleged irregularities in a state-run agency responsible for school construction. The columnist alleged that a public official had used state money to build a house. Ksheratto was arrested on January 9, 2003, after the official filed a complaint; he was released on bail the next day.
Unlike many other places in Latin America, the state of Chiapas has moved to stiffen criminal defamation laws. In February 2004, the Chiapas state congress unanimously approved amendments to Articles 164, 169, and 173 of the state’s penal code, drastically increasing penalties for defamation. Articles 164 and 169 raised minimum penalties for defamation and libel from two to three years and maximum penalties from five to nine years.