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Leading Guatemalan journalist José Ruben Zamora arrested

José Ruben Zamora, founder and President of investigative newspaper El Periódico and one of Guatemala’s leading independent journalists, was arrested at his home on the evening of 29 July.

Prosecutors searched Zamora’s home, accusing him of money laundering and related offences, charges frequently confected to prosecute critics.

Investigators also raided the offices of El Periódico, holding some of its employees in place for more than 16 hours. Bank accounts of el Periódico were seized.

On Monday, 1 August, Zamora’s initial appearance before a judge was cancelled and rescheduled for Wednesday, 3 August (the case file was apparently unavailable and the car in which Zamora was to be taken to the court allegedly broke down). On Wednesday, his preliminary court hearing was suspended and rescheduled again for the following Monday.

Zamora remains at the Mariscal Zavala prison in Guatemala City. His lawyers received access to documents detailing the exact charges against him only five days after the arrest.

Zamora’s arrest sparked an outpouring of condemnation, including from local press groups and international press freedom organisations, who have described the arrest as a blatant attempt to punish Zamora for his newspaper’s exposure of corruption at the heart of the government of President Alejandro Giammattei.

Scores of anti-corruption prosecutors, judges and activists are currently under police investigation or have fled the country, as the government seeks to crack down on transparency.

Fears are growing that the government may now be turning it’s sights on silencing independent media.

Zamora has been at the forefront of exposing human rights abuses and corruption in Guatemala for more than two decades and has won multiple national and international awards for his work.

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