Guatemalan court revokes house arrest granted to journalist José Rubén Zamora

In a June 25 decision, the Second Court of Appeals of Guatemala revoked the house arrest measure that had been granted to journalist José Rubén Zamora on May 15. The journalist, however, never left prison because he had another open case.

The recent decision was made after the Special Prosecutor's Office Against Corruption appealed the conditional release.

José Zamora, the journalist's son, told AFP that he is not surprised by the revocation, and said the journalist's defense will present legal action in response.

"Everyone knows that there are criminal cells within the justice system and the public prosecutor’s office" with the aim of "continuing to harass" my father, he added, according to AFP.

In his X account, Zamora’s son also showed his indignation when reporting that a person whom he called a spokesperson for the public prosecutor’s office of Guatemala announced the revocation of measures before the parties were notified.

José Rubén Zamora, 67, has been in prison since July 2022 accused of the crime of money laundering, influence peddling and blackmail. The journalist, recognized for his investigations that impacted presidents, including Alejandro Giammattei, has denied the accusations and said that it is retaliation for his work.

Since the beginning of the investigations against him, national and international organizations have pointed out irregularities in the case.

On June 14, 2023, he was sentenced to six years in prison for money laundering. This conviction was overturned in October 2023, and a new trial was ordered. However, that still hasn’t happened.

His case has even been monitored by TrialWatch, an initiative of the Clooney Foundation for Justice, which seeks to “expose injustice, help to free those unjustly detained and promote the rule of law around the world." In its report, TrialWatch pointed out that Zamora's trial was “fundamentally unfair” and said that if a new one were carried out, it would have to start from scratch to correct the flaws in the collection of evidence.

The very fact that despite having a revoked sentence he remains in prison has been criticized by different international organizations.

“There is no way to justify that they had detained him for the first time, imagine that he is still detained more than 18 months later with the sentence annulled and with abundant evidence of violations of his rights,” Carlos Martínez de la Serna, program director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), told LatAm Journalism Review (LJR) in February 2024.

When a court granted him conditional release last May, Zamora could not leave prison due to other cases open against him. One of them for the alleged crime of “obstruction of justice” and which is based on the opinion columns written by Zamora in which he criticized and pointed out the irregularities he saw in his own case.

Translated by Teresa Mioli