Guatemala orders arrest of lawyers for imprisoned journalist

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A Guatemalan judge on Thursday ordered the arrest of three lawyers defending jailed journalist José Rubén Zamora.

The announcement by prosecutors was the latest in a case that has drawn concerns about press freedom in Guatemala.

Zamora is the director of El Periódico, a newspaper that has published critical articles about alleged corruption under President Alejandro Giammattei.

The award-winning editor was arrested nine months ago on charges of blackmail and money laundering.

Prosecutors said the judge issued arrest warrants for Zamora’s defense attorneys, including lawyer Juan Francisco Solórzano Foppa, an opposition activist. Foppa said he was arrested while traveling to the court to turn himself in.

The lawyers are accused of participating in the alleged money laundering by negotiating a sales contract for an artwork to cover up money given to Zamora.

Press freedom groups have said the prosecution of Zamora is politically motivated. His defense has maintained he received a $38,000 donation to keep the paper afloat and asked a friend to deposit it in a bank because the donor did not want to be identified.

In February, a judge ordered an investigation of nine journalists from El Periódico to determine whether they were maliciously pursuing prosecutors, judges and other members of Guatemala’s justice system, thereby opening themselves up to criminal charges.

Top prosecutor Cinthia Monterroso has argued that El Periódico published critical stories about complaints, disciplinary processes and decisions by justice officials, including herself. She has said the people who ordered such stories — and the sources of their financing — must be investigated.

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