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Guatemala congressman arrested, accused in murders of two journalists

Congressman Julio Juarez Ramirez, who is accused of plotting the murders of two journalists in 2015, is escorted by police officers while arriving to the court in Guatemala City, Guatemala January 13, 2018. — Reuters pic
Congressman Julio Juarez Ramirez, who is accused of plotting the murders of two journalists in 2015, is escorted by police officers while arriving to the court in Guatemala City, Guatemala January 13, 2018. — Reuters pic

MEXICO CITY, Jan 14 — The Guatemala attorney general's office confirmed yesterday the arrest of congressman Julio Juarez Ramirez, who is accused of plotting the murders of two journalists in 2015.

Prosecutors and investigators with the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala said the politician orchestrated an attack on journalists Danilo Efraín Zapón López and Federico Benjamín Salazar Gerónimo, who were killed in March 2015.

Juarez was arrested yesterday morning near his home in the southern district of Suchitepéquez and transferred to Guatemala City, the capital of the Central American nation. He maintained his innocence as he reported to court yesterday afternoon.

“He who owes nothing fears nothing, that's why I'm here in the name of God, who will clear up everything,” Juarez told reporters. “Talk to the press of Suchitepéquez and you will realize that I never, never had problems with the press.”

Juarez served as mayor of the southern city of San Antonio La Union from 2012 to 2015, before winning a seat in Congress the next year. According to investigators, Zapon, who was a journalist for the newspaper Prensa Libre, was attacked because he was working on a story about corruption in the Juarez's administration.

Last December, the US Treasury sanctioned Juarez under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act for his alleged role in the attack.

Local media reported in 2015 that Juarez described himself as a friend of Zapon's and admitted to meeting the journalist the day he was killed.

“That's why they want to investigate me, but I am free of any involvement with him,” Juarez told local media. — Reuters

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