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PERIODISTAS statement on Cabezas trial

(Periodistas/IFEX) - The following is a PERIODISTAS press release:

The Cabezas Trial

It is probable, but not certain, that the people sentenced in Dolores supervised the crime. Ostensibly, however, they did not lead the responsible parties, and the legal findings never gave irrefutable reasons for the motivations behind or the factual circumstances surrounding the shocking incident, such as would be revealed in a serious penal process. PERIODISTAS laments that, for the most part, the assassins of José Luis Cabezas still retain their impunity, and that this fact continues to tarnish the quality of democratic life in Argentina. The oral proceedings do have one virtue, they brought attention to all the items which PERIODISTAS' 1999 annual statement noted remained, "unclear and which impede a clear view of our colleague's assassination". Lamentably, three years after the crime occurred, this statement has not lost its pertinence. On the contrary, new evidence has surfaced which makes the case scandalous.

During the action that occurred in Pinamar a year after the murder, PERIODISTAS condemned the appeals judge's embarrassing verdict which accused Cabezas of being an extortionist, which was the court's only explanation for his murder. This verdict repeated the perverse national custom of investigating a victim, and accusing them of being responsible for their own fate. PERIODISTAS also notes that state resources were used to bring a shady police informer onto the stand. The same court who called this manoeuvre diabolical and even compared it with "measures which were used to obscure the real authors of crimes of state terrorism", has now absolved its protagonist, without advancing even one step in the investigation ordered by its members in May 1997.

Neither the judge, the police investigation, or the court were able to satisfactorily explain the armed homicide, contradictions between the successive specialist's report and the autopsy, or factual incompatibility between the stories of the accused, which constituted the exclusive and feeble basis for their sentencing. The approximately sixty times that the head commissioner of the investigation responded "I don't know" or "I don't remember" affected any steps that were taken toward finding out the truth behind what happened to Cabezas.

PERIODISTAS also recalls that in Dolores two years ago, the former governor's hyperactivity brought questionable witnesses to the stand, and the lawyers defending the presumed assassins could not explain who was paying their fees, therefore it was impossible to uncover the facts surrounding the murder. Public opinion followed the updates of former governor Duhalde, who made a statement in the October 1999 issue of "Noticias" magazine assuring people that he had not only paid fifty thousand pesos for information, but also knew the location where the murder weapon was buried. The opinions of the public audience have concealed the way that the judicial process has been manipulated and impeded attempts to detail the evident politicisation of the case.

PERIODISTAS expresses its condolences for the pain and indignities suffered by Cabezas' family members, which have been made worse by the irregularities which have occurred, and are unacceptably cruel.

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