Miguel Pérez Julca

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Two hooded gunmen shot and killed the popular Peruvian radio commentator in front of his wife and children, according to news reports. Eyewitnesses quoted by the Lima daily La República said the attackers opened fire as the journalist and his family were nearing the front door of their home in northwestern Peru, then sped away on a motorcycle. Pérez's wife, Nelly Guevara, was wounded in the attack.

Pérez was host of the radio program "El Informativo del Pueblo" ("Bulletin of the People") on the Jaén-based station Radio Éxitos. Pérez, 38, had covered local crime and allegations of government corruption.

Guevara told local reporters that her husband had received death threats on his cell phone in the weeks prior to his death. She said that an unknown vehicle had followed Pérez on the afternoon of March 16.

In the days following the murder, Guevara said she received telephone calls at home from unidentified people who threatened to kill her and her three children, according to Peruvian news reports. Correspondents Juan Vásquez of América Televisión and Walter Altamirano of Radio Acajú told local reporters that they had also been threatened after covering news of the murder.

Four people were detained in connection with Pérez's murder, although three were released without charge, according to the press freedom group Instituto Prensa y Sociedad. One suspect, José Hurtado Vásquez, remained in custody. Jaén police accused Hurtado of hiring two local gunmen to kill the journalist. Investigators say Hurtado was angered by on-air criticism of his girlfriend, the director of a local nonprofit organization, according to Peruvian press reports. Hurtado denied the accusation, the Lima-based daily El Comercio reported.

Local colleagues and Lima-based journalists who spoke to CPJ said they were skeptical of the police investigation. According to La República, Pérez promised during his last show that he would reveal the names of  "Jaén police officers who are in cahoots with drug traffickers and protect gangs of criminals." A few hours before the murder, several witnesses saw Pérez and Police Commander Jorge Velezmoro Ruiz at a local restaurant, La República reported. Velezmoro denied having seen Pérez that day, the newspaper said.

On April 16, 2008, a court in Jaén convicted Hurtado of masterminding the slaying and sentenced him to 27 years in prison, and Nazario Coronel Ramírez, also known as "Chamaya," to 19 years in prison. The court also ordered the two men to pay the journalist's family 35,000 Peruvian sols (US$13,000) as compensation, El Comercio said.

The slaying was the first involving a Peruvian journalist since the 2004 murders of two radio commentators, Alberto Rivera in Pucallpa and Antonio de la Torre Echeandía in Yungay.

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