PBI-Guatemala posts that Guatemalan human rights lawyer Virginia Laparra is free after almost two years in military prison

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo: Virginia Laparra released from prison. Photo by @EmmanuelPixab.

PBI-Guatemala has posted that Virginia Laparra has finally been freed:

For a short video of Laparra’s comments upon her release, click here.

Laparra was arrested on February 23, 2022, in Quetzaltenango and transferred 200 kilometres away to be held in preventive detention in Matamoros military prison in Guatemala City, where she remained until last night.

In September 2022, The Guardian reported: “A Guatemalan anti-corruption prosecutor has been locked up for six months in conditions ‘bordering on torture’, as the country’s ruling elite pursues a strategy to purge the justice system and derail corruption investigations against their allies.”

That article adds: “The current pattern of persecution has parallels to the situation after Guatemala’s 36-year civil war, which led to 200,000 mostly Indigenous civilians deaths between 1960 and 1996, and left the country’s economic, political and military institutions under the control of criminal networks and parallel security structures.”

It also quotes lawyer Juan Francisco Sandoval who said: “[The prosecution of Laparra is] a clear message from the political and economic power brokers that never again should corruption cases be investigated – or the consequences will be prison or exile.”

La Hora has also explained: “On December 16 [2022], a court sentenced Laparra to 4 years in prison, commutable at the rate of Q10 per day, after being found guilty of the crime of continuous abuse of authority. Laparra was prosecuted after former judge Lesther Castellanos denounced her, because when he was a prosecutor, she wanted to investigate him on four occasions for allegedly leaking confidential information.”

Yesterday, with the news of her release, Ana Piquer, Americas director at Amnesty International, commented: “Virginia Laparra should never have spent a day in jail. It’s great news that she can be reunited with her loved ones after nearly two years as a prisoner of conscience. Her release is a first step towards ending the terrible human rights violations she has faced in retaliation for her outstanding work as an anti-corruption prosecutor.”

Piquer added: “Amnesty International reiterates its call for the Guatemalan authorities to put an immediate end to the misuse of the criminal justice system to harass, intimidate and punish judges, prosecutors, human rights defenders and journalists.”

Amnesty International declared Laparra a prisoner of conscience on November 28, 2022 following a review of the criminal case against her that found serious shortcomings and multiple irregularities in the handling of the case.

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