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Journalists' assassins convicted

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 25 September 2002, a verdict was announced in the case of the assassination of cameramen Alberto Sánchez Tovar and Luis Alberto Rincon Solano, formerly with Television Regional de Oriente (TRO). Former soldiers Gregorio Castillo and Orlando Calderon were sentenced on 26 July to 19 years in prison for aggravated homicide.

The Bucaramanga Fifth Criminal Court judge reached the decision shortly after taking on the case. The case was originally brought before the Bucaramanga Second Specialised Court, but the court did not take it on after it concluded that the victims' profession was not relevant and the crime was not an act of terrorism.

Gustavo Blanco, one of the defence lawyers, told IPYS that the "ruling was arbitrary and errors had been committed." Nevertheless, Blanco's attempt to appeal the case was denied due to insufficient grounds.

Sánchez Tovar and Rincon Solano were assassinated on 28 November 1999 in Cuesta Rica. The two journalists had just finished covering a political rally in the municipality of El Playon and were traveling by motorbike to Bucaramanga, Santander when the attack took place. Upon hearing of the assassination, then president Andrés Pastrana asked the Attorney General's Office to investigate the matter.

The crime occurred a few days after Castillo and Calderon retired from the National Army. The two assailants are currently detained at the Cúcuta National Penitentiary.

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