By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
BOGOTA, Colombia – Francisco Ferney Tapasco and Dixon Ferney Tapasco, father and son politicians, will be charged with the planning of the 2002 murder of Orlando Sierra Hernandez, a Colombian journalist, according to the Colombian Attorney General’s Office. Sierra Hernandez was the assistant editor of La Patria newspaper; he was gunned down in January 2002 outside the newspaper’s offices in Manizales.
According to the prosecution, several key witnesses have linked Ferney Tapasco, the former director of the Liberals in the Caldas department, and Dixon Tapasco, his ex-congressman son with the murder. The murder came shortly after Sierra Hernandez published allegations of corruption against the father and son.
Luis Fernando Soto Zapata, the confessed shooter, was sentenced to 29 years in prison, but was subsequently released after only six years on good behavior. The early release spurred large-scale protests by journalists across Colombia. Zapata ultimately was killed in a June 2008 gunfight with police in the southwestern city of Cali.
Francisco Ferney Tapasco is already serving jail time in connection with an investigation of his alleged ties to a violent right-wing rebel group in Colombia. His son is also previously served a seven-year prison sentence for paramilitary links, but left prison earlier this month.
The arrests of these politicians support the fears initially expressed by the Colombian journalistic community that the murder was politically motivated. Sierra Hernandez had been outspoken against what he perceived as corrupt politicians for years prior to his murder. In face, he the journalist was assigned bodyguards following death threats that he had received in 1998.
For more information, please see:
Colombia Reports –Liberal Party Politicians Indicted for Journalist Murder – 29 March 2011
Latin American Herald Tribune –Colombia Politicians Accused of Journalist’s Murder – 29 March 2011
Committee to Protect Journalists – Journalist Killed: Colombia – February 2002