Breaking News: Mexican detainee released

Friday, May 3, 1996

Mexican television producer Jorge Javier Elorriaga, sentenced to 13 years in prison for "terrorism, rebellion and conspiracy," on 3 May 1996, has been released. No further actions on this case are required.

President Ernesto Zedillo
President of the Republic of Mexico
Mexico D.F., Mexico
Fax: +525 271 1764

17 May 1996

SeƱor Presidente,

On behalf of the Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists, I would like to protest the thirteen-year sentence handed down on 3 May 1996 to television producer Jorge Javier Elorriaga, who worked for the Argos production company. He was charged with "terrorism, rebellion and conspiracy," and his political rights ("derechos politicos") were also suspended for four years.

Elorriaga's "crime" is his alleged connection to the EZLN (Zapatista National Liberation Army), namely that he was a high-ranking official, which he denies. We object to the length of his sentence, but we also vigorously object to the entire circumstances surrounding Elorriaga's arrest and trial, not least the forced testimony of his wife and the unknown whereabouts of his accuser. We urge you to call for a thorough review of the evidence used against him.

According to the International Federation of Journalists (FIP), the judge who sentenced Elorriaga in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Juan Manuel Alcantara Moreno, justified the sentence by claiming the journalist had been in charge of "press and propaganda... of the Ideology Commission of the EZLN." FIP says, "He also maintained, without any proof, that Elorriaga had edited the initial communiques issued by the EZLN in January 1994." Moreover, the judge allowed the testimony of Salvador Morales Garibay, the alleged accuser of Elorriaga, to be entered as evidence; even though Morales never appeared in court to testify, in spite of having been ordered to do so on six occasions by the judge. As well, the judge allowed the testimony of Elorriaga's wife, Gloria Benavides, even though she claims her statements were made under duress.

Some of the facts of the case are as follows. Elorriaga was detained on 9 February 1995 in San Cristobal de las Casas. A video produced by Argos, called "Journey to the Centre of the Jungle", was among other evidence used against Elorriaga. Toward the end of 1995, Elorriaga reportedly stated in an interview that he had been a go-between for EZLN leader Subcomandante Marcos and the Mexican Ministry of the Interior, but he denied ever having been a member of the EZLN. His own testimony, in addition to research provided by international press freedom groups, lead us to believe that Elorriaga is innocent, and that he has been wrongly arrested during a campaign of censorship. The CCPJ urges you to have him released immediately. We look forward to a reply.

Yours Sincerely,

Wayne Sharpe,
Executive Director

cc. Antonio Lozano Garcia
Attorney General
Reforma y Jaime Nuno
Box 06300, D.F., Mexico