Guatemala journalist goes on trial in money laundering case

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The president of a Guatemalan investigative newspaper went on trial Tuesday on money laundering charges in a case media observers have criticized as politically motivated.

José Rubén Zamora, 66, arriving at the court in handcuffs, told reporters he was a “political prisoner” and expected to be convicted because he had no confidence in the court.

Zamora, leader of El Periodico newspaper, is an award winner whose work has been recognized internationally.

Zamora has been held in jail since his arrest last year. Prosecutors accuse him of money laundering related to a deposit of about $30,000 he asked someone else to make for him. The money was a donation to keep the newspaper running, but the donor wanted to remain anonymous, Zamora has said.

El Periodico was known for aggressive reporting on government corruption. It was forced to stop publishing its print edition and went completely online.

The Guatemalan Association of Journalists and human rights activists have called the case a politically motivated campaign against Zamora because of his anti-corruption efforts.

“The trial is a setback not only for journalists, also to media and society,” said Mario Recino, vice president of journalists’ association. The prosecutor’s office “is prosecuting and criminalizing journalists’ work.”

The U.S. government has sharply criticized the weakening of anti-corruption efforts in Guatemala under President Alejandro Giammattei. U.S. authorities cancelled the visa of the country’s last top prosecutor after a number of anti-corruption officials fled the country under threat of prosecution.

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