National Court of Ecuador clears journalist who faced 5 years in prison

The criminal chamber of the National Court of Justice of Ecuador has declared the journalist Freddy Aponte innocent. Aponte had been facing five years in prison for "fraudulent insolvency" -- not being able to pay a fine -- said the newspaper La Hora.

In 2011, Aponte was sentenced to five years in prison for failing to pay a fine of $55,000 for moral damages to the ex-mayor of Loja. The sentence was reaffirmed in 2012.

However, on March 26 the sentence was annulled due to an “express contradiction” between two legal codes and for an erroneous interpretation of an article in the Code of Criminal Procedure, said La Hora.

Aponte’s defense was based on the requirement that for there to be a case, there needs to exist a declaration of fraudulent insolvency by a judge, which was not true in his case, said NGO Fundamedios. The court agreed with this reasoning by saying that “the decision of the civil judge that declares the insolvency of Freddy Aponte does not exist” and that this is an indispensable first step before beginning criminal proceedings,” added the NGO.

The prosecution said they would analyze the possibility of lodging an extraordinary protectionary measure as well as a lawsuit against the judges “who presumably could have been wrong" in ruling against them, said the lawyer of the accuser according to Fundamedios.

The dispute with the former mayor of Loja began in 2007 when Aponte accused him of misappropriating land on his radio program on the Luz y Vida station.

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.