August 11, 1998
Case: Amparo Leonor Jiménez
Overturned the acquittal:
June 1, 2002
On June 20, 2002, the High Court of Valledupar overturned the acquittal by a lower court of the man accused of murdering journalist Amparo Leonor Jiménez on August 11, 1998, in Valledupar, Cesar province, Colombia, and handed down its own sentence.
It sentenced Libardo Prada Bayona to 37 years and eight months in prison on charges of aggravated homicide and illegal possession of weapons for personal defense. He also was ordered to pay damages to the victim’s relatives in an amount equivalent to 1,000 grams of gold.
Prada Bayona’s acquittal by the Valledupar Criminal Circuit Court on January 23, 2002, had been appealed by the district attorney and public prosecutor.
The Inter American Press Association in March 2002 protested the acquittal and asked the Valledpur High Court to hear the appeal without delay and the Colombian Attorney General’s Office to look into the lower court’s decision to acquit after a trial that had been delayed for more than a year.
Judges Ramiro Alfredo Larrazabal, Adalberto Márquez and Alfredo Ariza Padilla overturned the acquittal after reviewing the case.
Prada Bayona was arrested 11 days after the murder and charged with homicide on April 16, 1999, as the perpetrator of the crime. He was identified by three eye-witnesses from photofit pictures. He was initially linked to the murder in a statement made by a person who said that some days before he had overheard a conversation in which Prada Bayona bragged he had been hired by a paramilitary to kill the journalist.
A document contained in the case file now in the possession of the Attorney General’s Office says that Prada Bayona worked for Cesar area paramilitaries René Ríos González and Salvatore Mancuso, members of the United Self-Defense of Colombia. They were said to have threatened Jiménez and seized her notes and the film of her cameraman while covering a story in February 1996 for the “Q.A.P.” newscast on the bloody eviction of 100 farmworkers from the Bellacruz Ranch owned by former Colombian congressman and minister Carlos Arturo Marulanda.
Marulanda was arrested in Madrid, Spain, on July 16, 2001, by Interpol agents acting on an extradition order issued by a court to face charges of illegally organizing paramilitary groups and in connection with the February 14, 1996, incidents. He was extradited to Colombia in 2002.
The file on the Jiménez case has been sent to the crimes against journalists section of the Human Rights Unit in the Colombian Attorney General’s Office for follow-up action to identify who was behind her murder.