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Journalist requests that her case be closed so she can return to Chile

(PERIODISTAS/IFEX) - On 2 June 2001, defense counsel for Chilean journalist Alejandra Matus asked the Santiago Appeals Court to dismiss all charges against the author of " El Libro Negro de la Justicia Chilena" (The Black Book of Chilean Justice). She was indicted based on the recently repealed Article 6 (b) of the State Security Law (Ley de Seguridad Interior del Estado, LSIE).

The counsel's main argument is that the provision, which consecrates insult of officials and penalises all statements that high government officials consider damaging (see IFEX alerts on the Chilean press law of 30 and 28 May, 25, 23, 19, 17 and 6 April, 20 and 15 March, 22 and 15 February 2001 and others), was abolished in April. Former president and current member of the Supreme Court Servando Jordán filed a suit against Matus for statements made in her book that he felt were injurious to him. Matus' book is one of the most profound journalistic investigations of the relationship and exchange of power between tribunal members and their ties to the Pinochet dictatorship.

In his brief, Matus' defense attorney stated that, "Article 46 of Law No 19.733, which repeals Article 6 (b) of the State Security Law, has been enacted and will be published on 4 June in the 'Diario Oficial'." He added that according to Article 18 of the Criminal Code, if "before the sentence's conclusion, another law is enacted which exonerates an act from all penalty (...) then the case should be resolved," and that these steps should be taken in Matus' case immediately by residing court judge Jaime Rodríguez Espoz.

Also due to the repeal of LSIE's Article 16, defense counsel has requested that all the Editorial Planeta copies that were confiscated on 13 April 1999, as ordered by Judge Rafael Huerta, who is currently retired, should be returned to them. On that same day, the judge also ordered Matus' arrest. She was forced to leave the country and went to Buenos Aires, later seeking exile in the United States. Only after the Chilean court decides upon the final dismissal of the case will the journalist be able to return to the country.

Recommended Action

Send appeals to the appellate court:
- supporting the appeal of Matus' case
- emphasising that the article invoked by the plaintiff to accuse the journalist was recently repealed
- recalling the process aimed at protecting freedom of expression launched by Latin American countries based on the most advanced principles of human rights and the movement towards consolidating democracy that was initiated by Chile in 1990

Appeals To

Santiago Court of Appeals
Court of Justice
Santiago de Chile
Tel: +56 2 671 5667

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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