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Three years after murder, one of the killers of Mexican journalist Javier Valdez has been sentenced



The man who admitted to having participated in the murder of investigative Mexican journalist Javier Valdez, shot and killed on May 15, 2017, has received 14 years and eight months in prison.

Javier Valdéz (Foto: Luis Antonio García Sepúlveda/Creative Commons)

Heriberto Picos Barraza, aka “El Koala” was sentenced on Feb. 27 by a federal court in Culiacán, Sinaloa, after admitting to being one of those responsible for the murder of Valdez, Ríodoce reported. ‘Koala’ was captured as a suspect in the murder of Valdez on April 23, 2018 in Tijuana and then transferred to Culiacán, according to La Jornada de Baja California.

The Office of the Special Prosecutor for the Attention of Crimes committed against Freedom of Expression (Feadle) had requested a minimum penalty of 22 years for Picos Barraza but this was reduced by a third after the accused accepted participation in an abbreviated trial, Animal Político published.

“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,” Hootsen said, according to CPJ. “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.”

Picos Barraza was also ordered to pay 9 million pesos of compensation, 50,268 pesos for burial expenses and 2.7 million pesos for moral damages, Ríodoce published. The Executive Commission of Attention to Victims, a program for victims of crime, will be responsible for paying all reparations (about US $61,000 in total), the site said.

After hearing the sentence, from an adjoining room, Valdez's wife, Griselda Triana, said: “There is nothing that can pay, nor will there be a sufficient sentence, there will be some justice but there will be no truth, that is a debt that remains for his family,” Ríodoce published.

Another of those to be prosecuted for Valdez’s death is Juan Francisco Picos Barrueta, who did not accept the abbreviated procedure because his sentence would have been 20 years and eight months, Noroeste reported. Picos Barrueta, aka ‘El Quillo,’ has two other trials in progress on charges of possession of firearms for use by the armed forces, according to the site.

The next oral trial hearing for Picos Barrueta is scheduled for March 25, in Culiacán, Hootsen posted on Twitter.

“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,” Hootsen said, according to CPJ. “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.”

According to La Silla Rota, Picos Barraza was identified as a member of the Sinaloa cartel, belonging to the group of the leader Dámaso López Núñez, alias “El Licenciado,” and Dámaso López Serrano, alias “El Mini Lic.”

According to evidence from Feadle, the testimonies of two witnesses point to "The Mini Lic" as the alleged intellectual author of the crime. According to the witnesses, “El Mini Lic” offered them 100,000 pesos and a position of trust in exchange for assassinating Valdez, a proposal that the prosecution's witnesses rejected, Ríodoce published. The witnesses also declared that the “El Mini Lic” subsequently offered the same to the “Quillo” and the “Koala.”

One of the witnesses allegedly said that the "Quillo" admitted that the reason for the murder of Valdez had been a journalistic note that "the people of El Dorado” had not liked, Aristegui Noticias published.

Dámaso López Serrano has been imprisoned in a San Diego jail, since 2017, after surrendering to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), published Ríodoce. The head of the Feadle, Ricardo Sánchez Pérez del Pozo, reported at the end of January that the process of extradition of López Serrano to the United States embassy in Mexico has already begun.

Valdez, a journalist and co-founder of Riodce, died at noon on May 15, 2017. His car was intercepted and he was shot a few meters from his office in Culiacán, Sinaloa. The journalist covered drug trafficking in his city and authored several books on drug trafficking. He also received prestigious awards such as the CPJ Press Freedom Award in 2011, and that same year he received the Maria Moors Cabot Prize from Columbia University.



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