MANAGUA (AFP) – The trial of a man suspected of killing a Nicaraguan journalist in February came to a speedy close this week after a judge condemned him to 21.5 years in prison.
William Hurtado, a former member of the now-defunct General Leadership of State Security of the Sandinista party, was convicted of shooting journalist Carlos Guadamuz five times in front of the Canal 23 television station in Managua on Feb. 10.
Guadamuz, 59, had been recording his daily talk program before he stepped outside and was shot to death.
GUADAMUZ was an associate of former Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega and was the director of the radio station The Voice of Nicaragua during the Sandinista Revolution from 1979-1990.
After the revolution, he became the director of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) Radio Ya. In 1999, he had a falling out with the party and since then had been outspokenly critical of the FSLN, especially of party higher-ups (TT, Feb. 13).
After the shooting, Hurtado was detained by Canal 23 employees. His wife, Margarita Membreño, and another man, Luis García, owner of the gun used in the murder, were also arrested. Their status was unavailable at press time.
EIGHTH Penal District Judge Rafaela Urroz sentenced Hurtado to 18 years in prison for the murder of Guadamuz, and another three and a half years for the attempted murder of the journalist’s youngest son, Selim Guadamuz, who held the gunman after witnessing the murder of his father.
“I didn’t expect the judge to make that decision because (Hurtado) didn’t kill me (the day of the crime), because he had run out of bullets and could not shoot me,” Selim Guadamuz said after the hearing.
The sentence came after an eight-hour public trial, attended by the slain man’s widow and children, who had requested the maximum penalty for such a crime – 30 years in prison.
However, the judge said the “only crime that merits the judicial authority to impose the maximum penalty is a cruel murder.”
The term “cruel murder” is a translation of a legal term not used in Costa Rica, asesinato atroz, which has been used in Nicaragua to classify particularly violent murders that involve the beating of victims, binding of limbs, and the murders of groups of people by military and rebel patrols.
THE slain reporter’s oldest son, whose name was not given, said “We feel even more frustrated with the justice in Nicaragua… This judge (Urroz) is the wife of Ramón Rojas, who is Daniel Ortega’s lawyer, so here we see the political web that exists between them.”
He said that in the trial “Daniel (Ortega) did everything but the impossible to reduce the sentence.”
AT the time of his arrest, police reports indicated that Hurtado said there were a million people in Nicaragua who wanted to end Guadamuz’s life.
His death drew speculation and accusations from the left and right of the political spectrum as to who was responsible and if there were direct political ties to the murder.
President Enrique Bolaños called the murder “a cowardly blow” against freedom of expression (TT, Feb. 13).