Colombia to pay reparations to man convicted of 1986 newspaper assassination

Posted on Feb 21 2014 - 12:03pm by Rico

The Colombian government will pay a reported $500,000 in reparations to a former cartel operative wrongly convicted of a high-profile 1980s murder, according to national media sources. 

Pablo Enrique Zamora was one of two men found guilty of the 1986 assassination of Guillermo Cano, the Director of the El Espectador newspaper at the time, a prominent news organization that ran afoul of Colombia’s Medellin Cartel. On Thursday, the Colombian State Council awarded the former convict payment in exchange for time spent in prison, after the country’s Supreme Court ruled he was convicted on insufficient evidence.

Cano was murdered in front of the El Espectador offices in Bogota by two hitmen at the order of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The newspaper had been publishing articles critical of the narcotics trade’s influence over Colombian politics, and those same offices were later destroyed in a car bombing three years later.

Zamora was said to have driven the getaway motorcycle, and was convicted along with three other individuals — María Ofelia Saldarriaga, Carlos Martínez Hernández, and Luis Carlos Molina Yepes — who were sentenced on conspiracy charges. Eventually, only Molina’s and Zamora’s convictions held up in court, after the other two were overturned on appeal.

Now only Molina remains in jail in connection to the murder, after the Supreme Court ruled that the original judicial authorities allowed themselves to become carried away with the need to demonstrate good results in the high-profile case, and convicted Zamora, despite a lack of evidence. On Thursday, the State Council ordered the Colombian government to pay $500,000 to the victim of the wrongful conviction.

According to the International Press Institute, Cano’s murder investigation took nine years and was fraught with irregularities. The Medellin Cartel infiltrated the judiciary, bribing judges, court officials and jurors. One judge looking into the matter was murdered and another forced to flee the country.

Furthermore, the hit men who were suspected of having killed Cano, Alvaro García Saldarriaga and Luis Eduardo Osorio, were themselves murdered, in a supposed effort to erase any traces of the crime.

The State Council’s judgement marks one in an ongoing trend that sees millions of dollars annually go to plaintiffs in wrongful conviction cases.

Cano’s commitment to freedom of the press, meanwhile, continues to be celebrated each year with the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. Each May 3, International World Press Freedom Day, the award goes to a person, organization or institution who has made a significant contribution to the defense of press freedom.


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