Amnesty International denounces the sentencing of Guatemalan anti-corruption prosecutor Virginia Laparra

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Virginia Laparra

Deutsche Welle reports: “Former Guatemalan anti-corruption prosecutor Virginia Laparra was sentenced on Friday [December 16] to four years in prison.”

The article continues: “Gonzalez’s verdict forces Laparra to pay a fine of 10 quetzales (about $1.25) a day for four years to avoid going to prison, although the former prosecutor has been behind bars [in a military prison] since her arrest in February.”

What are the charges against her?

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) explains: ““Abuse of authority,” “false testimony” and “usurpation of powers” –all because she dared denounce a high-risk judge in Quetzaltenango, Lester Castellanos, who she reported for improperly revealing information about a restricted case to a lawyer named Omar Barrios, and who was sanctioned as a result with a five-day suspension.”

WOLA adds: “This is precisely the job she was charged with carrying out at the FECI [Special Prosecutor’s Office against Impunity].”

After hearing the sentence, Laparra said: “This is a legal aberration and a terrible precedent.”

She has further stated that the charges against her are part of a “vengeance” campaign by right-wing forces intent on protecting corruption rackets and military officers blamed for crimes during the 1960-1996 civil war.

Political persecution

LaHora.gt adds: “National and international organizations pointed to a political persecution against the former head of the FECI of Quetzaltenango since her arrest.”

Reuters also provides this context: “FECI collaborated with the CICIG [International Commission Against Impunity], a U.N. body that was expelled from Guatemala in 2018, after successfully imprisoning former presidents, officials and businessmen involved in corruption cases.”

And Sandra Cuffe has reported: “The CICIG worked alongside Guatemalan investigators and prosecutors to dismantle criminal networks entwined with state power.”

It was ended by the Guatemalan government in September 2019.

Organizations respond

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, says: “Virginia Laparra is a prisoner of conscience who has been unjustly deprived of her liberty for more than nine months. The criminal prosecution initiated against her is unfounded and solely due to her work as a prominent anti-corruption prosecutor.” 

“It is unacceptable that the highest authorities lend themselves to the manipulation of the criminal justice system to harass and punish those who have contributed to significant advances in the fight against impunity in emblematic cases of corruption and human rights violations, thus dignifying Guatemala’s justice system in the eyes of its population.”

Guevara-Rosas adds: “Virginia Laparra must regain her freedom immediately.”

And WOLA comments: “This is justice in Guatemala today. Anti-corruption prosecutors are persecuted and jailed  for doing their job. Judges who have worked a lifetime to combat crime, violence and corruption are being forced out of the country. Corrupt officials in the Public Ministry, with the complicity of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court, are using the law as a blunt instrument to remove prosecutors and judges from their positions and are putting lackeys in their place, or using familiar tactics, including bribery, threats, and blackmail, to ensure the collaboration of others.”

The LaHora.gt article also notes that: “The United Nations (UN), the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders of Guatemala (UDEFEGUA) and the US Bar Association (ABA) attended the hearings in the case as observers.”

Facebook posts about Virginia Laparra by PBI-Guatemala.

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