Jose Ruben Zamora Marroquin founded the Guatemalan newspaper El Periodico, which has won multiple international awards for its investigations, in 1996 – Copyright AFP Johan ORDONEZ
A Guatemalan appeals court on Friday overturned a six-year prison sentence handed down in June to the founder of one of the country’s top newspapers, though his legal ordeal is not yet over.
Jose Ruben Zamora Marroquin, founder of El Periodico, which was often critical of the government, had been found guilty of money laundering in a trial denounced by press freedom groups.
But while it overturned his prison sentence, the court also ordered a new trial date to be fixed.
The prosecution had originally sought 40 years in prison for 67-year-old Zamora — whose newspaper shut down in May after nearly three decades in operation — for a string of charges including money laundering, influence peddling and racketeering.
Zamora had been accused of extorting businessmen in exchange for not publishing damaging information about them in El Periodico.
He has accused outgoing President Alejandro Giammattei and Attorney General Consuelo Porras of trying to silence him for bringing government corruption to light.
Zamora has been in pre-trial detention since July 2022, and must stay behind bars because he has other open cases against him.
His son, Ramon Zamora, said on X, formerly Twitter, that he hoped for a fair trial.
El Periodico, founded in 1996, has won international awards for its investigations.
It ceased its activities on May 15, after 27 years of circulation, citing what it called judicial persecution and financial pressures, aggravated by the arrest of its owner.
Zamora’s ordeal is not the only one sparking criticism from observers of Guatemala’s democratic institutions.
Guatemala’s highest court ordered authorities earlier this month to safeguard the inauguration of incoming president Bernardo Arevalo, an anti-graft crusader who has been targeted with legal challenges to his swearing-in in January.
Arevalo has described the legal moves against him as amounting to a coup to deny him the presidency, and uncertainty about his swearing-in has sparked massive protests.