International PEN welcomes the early release of La Verdad editor Milton Chacaguasay Flores, who had been imprisoned since November 2008 for allegedly libeling a judge. Chacaguasay was reportedly freed on parole in May 2009, six months into his 10-month sentence, after applying in March to the Social Rehabilitation Directorate for his sentence to be reduced, according to the Ecuadorian Ministry of Justice and Human Rights.

Background Information

On November 15, 2008, Chacaguasay, who is editor and director of the weekly newspaper La Verdad, based in Machala, southern Ecuador, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for allegedly libeling a judge. The judge in question claimed that Chacaguasay had accused him of corruption in a report published in La Verdad in 2007. Chacagusay alleges that the report was not written by him or his staff, but by a third party who had paid for its publication. The piece reportedly requested the National Judiciary Council to review a sentence issued by the judge, who was not named, that was considered to be unfair.

Chacaguasay was acquitted of the charges in May 2008, but was found guilty on appeal before a different court on November 15, 2008, and sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment. He had been serving his sentence in a maximum security prison in Quito.

According to the Ministry of Justice, Chacagusay may be able to request that the case be reviewed following the reported appearance of the author of the report that landed him in jail. However, the Ministry also indicated that the journalist is facing around five other lawsuits, one of which reportedly seeks damages of US $400,000 on the basis of the conviction for which Chacaguasay was imprisoned.

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Thank you to all who sent appeals.