Culprits behind Argentine journalist’s murder 17 years ago should return to prison, organization says

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  • January 30, 2014

By Samantha Badgen

Seventeen years after the murder of the Argentine photojournalist José Luis Cabezas, the Argentine Journalism Forum (FOPEA) called for those responsible for the crime be returned to prison.

On Jan. 25, 1997, Cabezas was killed while covering the summer vacation season in Pinamar, Buenos Aires. According to the Argentine news site Infobae, Alfredo Yabrán, who authorities had identified as a crime boss at the time, orchestrated the crime. Cabezas had managed to get a photo of Yabrán, who was famous for avoiding cameras.

Yabrán was implicated after two of his associates -- Gregorio Ríos, his chief of security, and Gustavo Prellezo, a Buenos Aires policeman -- were arrested.

Cabezas was kidnapped at his house in Pinamar, beaten and taken to an empty site near a lake in General Madariaga. There, according to the journalist’s sister Gladys Cabezas, he was handcuffed and killed; his body was set on fire inside his car. He was found the next day and identified by his assignment partner and current vice president of FOPEA, Gabriel Michi.

All the members of the group responsible for the crime were sentenced to life in prison, sentences which in recent years have changed.

Gustavo Prellezo, the policeman, was granted house arrest due to health reasons in 2010; Rios was also able to get his life sentence changed to house arrest in 2006. Another one of the men arrested, Jose Luis Auge, was freed in 2004, after serving 16 years in prison and paying 20,000 pesos; a year later Sergio Gustavo Gonzalez was freed. Horacio Anselmo Braga benefited from Argentina’s 2x1 law, which after two years in preventive custody, counts every day served in preventive custody as two days in prison. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and was freed in 2005.

“Today, 17 years after this horrible incident, most of his killers are free, with the exception of two former Buenos Aires police officers (Aníbal Luna and Sergio Cammaratta) (...) and today are serving life in prison,” FOPEA said.

Cabezas’ murder marks one of the worst acts against freedom of the press in Argentina since the restitution of democracy in 1983. Every Jan. 25 since 1998, the Association of Graphic Reporters of Argentina (ARGRA) stages protests calling for justice for the murder of a journalist who was just doing his job, Infobae said.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.