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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Two men formally accused in murder of Nicaraguan journalist; family of the deceased protests accusation




By Silvia Higuera and Teresa Mioli

Two suspects in the murder of Nicaraguan journalist Ángel Gahona were sent to prison on May 8 after an initial hearing before a district judge in Managua, the country’s capital, La Prensa reported. However, the journalist’s family as well as the detainees and other civil society organizations, are protesting the accusation made by the public prosecutor’s office, saying it is a strategy of the authorities to avoid accusing the real perpetrators.

In a telephone interview with radio station La Costeñísima, published on the Facebook page of Noticias de Bluefields, the journalist’s brother, Juan Gahona, discarded that the young people were involved in the crime and assured that he and his family are “looking for the truth” and that a “witch-hunt” is not carried out.

Ángel Gahona. (Facebook).

“Personally I rule out any possibility that I can link these guys to Ángel’s murder,” Juan Gahona said in the radio interview. “Why do they have to take them to Managua? The certain thing is that they transfer them, torture them [...] and make them say things that aren’t, out of fear, because of threats.”

The order of preventive detention was against Brandon Cristofer Lovo Tayler, 18, whom the public prosecutor’s office said fired against the journalist with a handmade weapon. Glen Abraham Slate, 20, was designated as a “necessary cooperator,” La Prensa added. Both men are accused of "murder, attempted murder and other crimes," according to an earlier press release from the public prosecutor.

“With the help of the National Police and the Institute of Legal Medicine, [the public prosecutor] has determined through legal medical opinions, interviews, videos, visual inspection of the crime scene and ballistics results, that the person who deprived journalist Ángel Eduardo Gahona López, 42, of life, and wounded National Police Inspector Carlos Anselmo Rodríguez, 43, [...], was allegedly Brandon Cristofer Lovo Tayler,” the public prosecutor said in a release.

Transferring the accused young men to Managua, as well as flaws in the investigation and interrogation of eyewitnesses to the crime, are some of the failures that have been pointed out by both the journalist's family and the defendants.

The journalist's father, for example, said that "those who protested against the Social Security reforms were a block away and that the only ones who were close to his son were National Police officers," El Nuevo Diario reported.

Ileana Lacayo, a journalist and promoter of the protests in Bluefields, said that she feared that they could “plant evidence” against these young people.

“These young people are now Ángel's killers, when everyone has had evidence from the videos as to who was surrounding Ángel, who are the ones who carried the weapons, everyone knows the silence of the Police and the Prosecutor's Office and that they have acted because people have pressed them. Here the murderers are others,” Lacayo told La Costeñísima.

Gahona, director of El Meridiano, was killed in the city of Bluefields in southeastern Nicaragua on April 21 while broadcasting live on Facebook about protests against pension system reforms proposed by the Daniel Ortega government. The murder was recorded both on Gahona's cell phone and those of other journalists covering the protests.

The reforms to the pension system generated protests throughout Nicaragua starting on April 18. Marcos Carmona, general secretary of the Permanent Commission of Human Rights, reported that 59 identified persons died between April 18 and 22 in the context of the protests, El Nuevo Diario reported. Ortega revoked the pension reforms in light of the protests.

La Prensa noted that “by orders of the orteguista employee working as spokesperson for the Judicial Branch,” it and news site 100% Noticias were prohibited from entering the initial hearing in which the suspects were formally accused. However, it said most official media were allowed entry.



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