December 18, 2008

President Rafael Correa
Palacio de Carondelet
Garcia Moreno 1043
Entre Chile y Espejo
Quito, Ecuador
Fax: +593 2 258 0714

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to protest the 10-month prison sentence handed to editor Milton Chacaguasay Flores.

According to our information, on November 15, 2008, a criminal court in the southwestern province of El Oro sentenced Milton Chacaguasay Flores, editor and director of the weekly newspaper La Verdad, based in Machala, to 10 months in prison for allegedly libeling a judge, although Chacaguasay was initially acquitted of the charges in May 2008. The judge, who brought the case in late 2007, claimed that Chacaguasay accused him of corruption in a report published in La Verdad in September that year. The piece reportedly requested the National Judiciary Council to review a sentence issued by the unnamed judge. According to Chamaguasay, the report in question was not written by him or his staff, but by a third party who had paid for its publication. He was arrested on November 30, 2007, and held in the Social Rehabilitation Center in Machala until December 5, 2007, when he was transferred to a maximum security prison in Quito, reportedly for fear that other prisoners may attempt to kill him. His son reports that the politician who brought the first libel case left a death threat on Chacaguasay’s voicemail on December 1.

In February 2008, the same court gave the editor an eight-month prison sentence for allegedly libeling the leader of the Christian Social Party, whom Chacasaguay had reportedly linked to corruption in Machala municipality. The sentence is pending appeal by the National Court of Justice.

PEN American Center believes the conviction and detention of Milton Chacaguasay Flores to be in violation of his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right and Article 13 of the American Conservation on Human Rights, to which Ecuador is a signatory. We therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   
Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Ambassador Luis Benigno Gallegos Chiriboga
Embassy of Ecuador to the United States
2535 15th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20009
Fax: (202) 667-3482

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