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Commission to continue investigating Cabezas case

(RSF/IFEX) - The following is a 4 February 2000 RSF press release:

Paris, 4 February 2000

Argentina : Cabezas trial

Reporters sans frontières welcomes the ruling and announces that it will closely follow the work of the commission investigating the "unclear elements" that were not dealt with in the trial

Reporters sans frontières (RSF) welcomes the 2 February ruling of the Dolores Court (Buenos Aires province), sentencing eight of the ten individuals accused of assassinating photographer José Luis Cabezas to life imprisonment. According to Robert Ménard, the organisation's secretary-general, this ruling is "an indisputable step forward in the fight against impunity in Latin America, a continent where each year journalists are killed without there being any prosecution of those responsible for the crimes." Nevertheless, RSF lamented that the trial left a number of "unclear elements" unanswered. As such, the international organisation for the defence of press freedom welcomes the decision of Carlos Ruckauf, governor of Buenos Aires province, to set up a commission to investigate these "unclear elements". Robert Ménard announced that RSF "will closely follow the work of this commission."

On 2 February 2000, the three judges of the Dolores Court sentenced eight of the ten individuals accused of the crime to life imprisonment, three of whom were members of the Buenos Aires police force. The following day, Carlos Ruckauf announced the creation of a commission to continue investigating the case. According to RSF, the commission should prioritise an investigation of the possible role played by the Buenos Aires police in the assassination of the Noticias weekly photographer. The commission should attempt to answer the following unanswered questions: Was Pinamar declared a "free zone" by commissioner Gomez simply to allow this crime to be committed? How was inspector Oscar Viglianco able to tell the photographer's wife, on 25 January 1997 and before an autopsy had taken place, that José Luis Cabezas had been killed by two bullet shots? Were members of the Buenos Aires police implicated in creating a false trail, referring to the "Pepitos", at the initial stages of the investigation? Following this, as the Argentine association Periodistas affirmed, the commission should try to provide "a satisfactory explanation of what happened with the murder weapon and the victim's camera." The commission should especially summon Eduardo Duhalde, former governor of Buenos Aires province, who, a few weeks before the beginning of the trial, stated that he was aware of the location of the second weapon used in the crime.

The charred body of José Luis Cabezas, of the Noticias weekly, was found with two bullet shots in the head and his hands tied behind his back on 25 January 1997 in Pinamar, a resort town in Buenos Aires province. The previous year, the photographer had investigated corruption among Buenos Aires province police officers. Shortly before he was killed, he was investigating the activities of businessman Alfredo Yabrán. A number of irregularities and Alfredo Yabrán's suicide marked the investigation, which was concluded on 14 December 1998 and led to the accusation of ten individuals for the photographer's murder. The trial of the accused began on 14 December 1999 and was concluded on 2 February.

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