THE quest to convict those responsible for the assassination of radio journalist Parmenio Medina saw several developments this week, including the conditional release of a suspect, adding to the complexity of the investigation and leaving doubts as to when a criminal trial might begin.
Catholic priest Minor Calvo, a widely popular priest who prosecutors suspect of authoring Medina’s 2001 assassination, was released from Gerardo Rodríguez jail last week, where he had been serving a preventive sentence for his alleged involvement in the case.
Calvo says he is innocent of the charges.
ANOTHER suspected intellectual author, sports businessman Omar Chaves, apparently will remain behind bars for the remainder of his six-month preventive sentence, which expires June 26. He also has declared he is innocent in the case.
Heredia judge Ileanna Méndez decided on Wednesday there was sufficient cause to reject an appeal Chaves filed asking to be released.
Méndez said in her ruling she rejected the appeal because of the possibility that Chaves played an important role in authoring Medina’s killing, because he allegedly tampered with evidence in an attempt to obstruct the investigation, and it is possible he will evade the judicial process by leaving the country.
In the text of the ruling, Méndez wrote “the court can show clearly that there has existed and exists a great manipulation and obstruction of the process” on the part of Chaves.
MEDINA hosted a 28-year-old satirical and investigative radio program called La Patada (The Kick), which had run a series of reports about financial irregularities in the now-collapsed Radio Maria, a station run by Calvo and funded by Chaves.
Assassins gunned down the 62-year-old, Colombian-born, Costa Rican-naturalized journalist outside his home in the northern province of Heredia on July 7, 2001. Medina received three bullets fired point-blank at his head and torso.
Chaves and Calvo, both arrested in late December, 2003 (TT, Jan. 9), had requested their release in January, but Appeals Court Judge Luis Gerardo Bolaños rejected both their appeals and ruled Jan. 16 that the two suspects must serve the remainder of their six-month preventive detention sentences (TT, Jan. 23).
A subsequent appeal submitted by Calvo’s lawyer, Moises Vincenzi, won the priest conditional liberty on March 12.
Calvo is prohibited from leaving the country or contacting other witnesses involved in the trial, and must present himself before a judge every 15 days.
The Archbishop of San José, Hugo Barrantes, has asked Calvo to refrain from giving mass, baptisms, or taking confessions until the investigation is concluded (TT Daily Page, March 15).
The prosecutor in charge of the investigation, Guiselle Rivera, told television reporters that Chaves continues to threaten witnesses and investigators involved in the case.
This is the second time Rivera has alleged Chaves has threatened persons involved in the case.
Rivera said that on Feb. 11, during a forensic investigation in San Joaquín de Flores, in Heredia, Chaves told her and officer Jairo Mora: “You visit a lot of people, eh? Be very careful. You know what I’m talking about,” La Nación reported.
WHEN contacted by The Tico Times, Rivera declined to comment on the threats, “out of respect for the court,” she said.
Ulysses Calderón, one of the lawyers on Chaves’ defense team, said the prosecutors’ evidence is scant and his client should be released immediately.
“There is not proof enough to keep him in preventive prison,” Calderón told The Tico Times on Wednesday. “It is irrational and disproportionate.”
Calderón said he did not know what threats Rivera was referring to, and that he believed the accusations were a form of “adding fuel to the fire.”
THE suspected middleman of the assassination, John Gilberto Gutiérrez, remains behind bars, though the Attorney General of the Republic, Francisco Dall’Anese, notified Gutiérrez via fax last Friday that he was no longer a key witness in the case, Al Día reported.
A sworn statement signed by Gutiérrez, a Colombian, on Nov. 11, 2003, was the basis for the arrests of both Calvo and Chaves. In it, Gutiérrez claimed the two had hired him to find gunmen to kill Medina.
But on Feb. 10, Gutiérrez reversed his testimony, claiming he had only signed that document because prosecutors promised him his freedom within eight days.
After he was certain they were not going to fulfill their promise, he said, he announced he had not known either of the men personally, and only knew of Calvo because he had seen him on television.
In a court ruling in Heredia Jan. 15, Gutiérrez had his preventive prison sentence reduced by three months (TT, Jan. 23).