UPDATE (3/21/16): A former Colombian paramilitary fighter accused in the May 2000 kidnap, torture and rape of journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima has been sentenced to 28 years in prison.
Mario Jaimes Mejía, known as 'El Panadero,' accepted charges against him on Feb. 2. He was sentenced on March 18.
This is the second sentencing in the case.
On Feb. 25, Alejandro Cárdenas Orozco, known as J.J., was sentenced to 11 years and five months for his role in the kidnapping and torture.
"After a 15-year battle against impunity, this second sentence is another significant step forward in Jineth Bedoya Lima's fight for justice," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ senior program coordinator for the Americas, according to a press release from the organization. "We call on authorities to continue the pursuit for justice by convicting all those responsible."
ORIGINAL REPORT (2/2/16): Fifteen years after Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima was kidnapped, tortured and sexually abused, one of the men accused in the crimes has accepted the charges.
The Attorney General’s Office delivered the charges to Mario Jaimes Mejía, also known as ‘El Panadero,’ at a hearing that took place Feb. 2, according to various local media outlets and the journalist.
“After 15 years, the first of my perpetrators acknowledged my kidnapping, torture and rape. Not your victory! It is the victims'!!!”, Bedoya wrote in her Twitter account.
A year ago, Jaimes Mejía, one of the former heads of the paramilitary organization Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, had been brought to trial by the prosecution, but the process had not advanced because of "unjustified delays," according to the Free Press Foundation (FLIP).
However, this time Jaimes Mejía not only accepted the charges but also apologized to the journalist, Semana magazine reported.
On May 25, 2000, Bedoya Lima was kidnapped at the entrance of La Modelo prison in Bogota where she had arrived for an interview. According to the prosecution, ‘El Panadero’ would have participated in the meeting where the journalist's kidnapping was planned. This meeting took place in this prison and was organized by now deceased paramilitary chiefs José Miguel Arroyabe Ruiz and Ángel Custodio Gaitán, El Tiempo reported.
Included was Jaimes Mejía, who contacted her to arrange the interview in the detention center, El Espectador said.
At the time of the kidnapping, Bedoya Lima was investigating the deaths of 26 inmates at La Modelo prison in Bogotá and their relation to arms trafficking within the penitentiary. The business was managed by paramilitaries who were held in the prison, El Espectador reported.
However, at the entrance to the prison the reporter was intercepted and kidnapped for 16 hours, beaten, threatened with death and sexually abused. After these humiliations, she was abandoned near the city of Villavicencio, in the Meta department of central Colombia.
At the Feb. 2 hearing, ‘El Panadero’ acknowledged that these events were carried out to" shut up" the journalists because of allegations that she had been making about corruption in the prisons, El Espectador said.
In September 2012, the crimes against Bedoya Lima were declared as crimes against humanity framed in a context of systematic violence against the press in Colombia. At the time, the prosecutor acknowledged that "the attacks on journalists recurred as a method of warfare in order to silence the voice of those who dared to expose the excesses and violations of paramilitaritism to public opinion.”
Precisely because they are crimes against humanity, both the prosecution and the lawyer for the journalist who is also the executive director of FLIP, Pedro Vaca, requested the maximum sentence be delivered and that there be no reduction in the sentence.
"We can only ask the judge to have this process that works in justice," Bedoya said for her part in a message through Periscope. "It understood that recognition by a criminal, who for 15 years denied the truth and now decides to accept it, does not merit a reduction of sentences, it deserves for justice to have an effective response and have a tough response to crimes against humanity like sexual violence.”
In the almost five-minute-long message, Bedoya also thanked the support she received in her "struggle" that lasted more than 15 years, but she specifically thanked the other "survivors" who have also told their stories. However, she was emphatic in declaring that the truth about her case is not yet known and therefore she invited the community to keep fighting for it.
"This is the way. Keep looking for the truth. The truth is the only thing that can restore the rights in our country, the truth is the only thing that can really bring us healing. And this is a historic moment for Colombia ".
Regarding the crimes against Bedoya, there are still processes open against ex-paramilitary members Alejandro Cárdenas Orozco, also known as ‘JJ,’ and Jesús Emiro Pereira Rivero, Semana reported.
In June 2015, Cárdenas Orozco regained his freedom after a judge ruled there was no evidence to continue the investigation against him. Following outrage caused by this decision, the Attorney General of the country ordered his recapture.
Due to the lack of justice in her case, Bedoya Lima sued the Colombian State before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) in 2011. In 2014, the commission accepted the case.
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.