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Guatemalan Court Sentences Former Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Amid International Outcry

In a contentious ruling on Monday, a Guatemalan court sentenced Virginia Laparra to five years in prison. A former anti-corruption prosecutor, alongside a hefty fine, drawing sharp criticism from international bodies and rights groups. Laparra, 44, was found guilty of disclosing confidential information, a charge stemming from her tenure as head of a regional office […]

Guatemalan Court Sentences Former Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Amid International Outcry
Guatemalan Court Sentences Former Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Amid International Outcry

In a contentious ruling on Monday, a Guatemalan court sentenced Virginia Laparra to five years in prison. A former anti-corruption prosecutor, alongside a hefty fine, drawing sharp criticism from international bodies and rights groups.

Laparra, 44, was found guilty of disclosing confidential information, a charge stemming from her tenure as head of a regional office of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity in Quetzaltenango. Despite the conviction, the judge, Moises de Leon, allowed Laparra to remain under house arrest if she pays a nominal fee of 64 US cents per day of her sentence, totaling $1,168. Additionally, Laparra has been barred from holding public office for the next decade.

This verdict follows Laparra’s previous incarceration, during which she spent two years in detention and was later sentenced to four years for abuse of authority in a separate case widely condemned as politically motivated. Her release to house arrest in December 2022, after serving nearly half of her jail term, had sparked international outcry and accusations of judicial misconduct.

The United States, United Nations, and Amnesty International have all decried Laparra’s sentencing as a severe blow to Guatemala’s judicial independence and the fight against corruption. Amnesty International labeled Laparra a “prisoner of conscience,” emphasizing her persecution as part of broader efforts to suppress anti-corruption advocates in the country.

In a statement, the US State Department’s assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, Brian Nichols, condemned the ruling as part of a series of “egregious attacks” on the rule of law in Guatemala. He urged Guatemalan judicial authorities to cease targeting human rights defenders and ensure fair treatment for justice operators.

Guatemala, which scored poorly on Transparency International’s 2023 corruption perception index, has faced ongoing scrutiny over the politicization of its judicial system under Attorney General Consuelo Porras. Porras, sanctioned by the United States for allegedly undermining democracy, has faced calls for removal by President Bernardo Arevalo, elected on an anti-graft platform.

President Arevalo’s proposed legal reforms, aimed at reshaping the judiciary, have sparked further controversy amid concerns about safeguarding the rule of law and protecting human rights in Guatemala.

The sentencing of Virginia Laparra underscores the precarious state of justice and anti-corruption efforts in Guatemala, prompting renewed international calls for reforms and respect for judicial independence.

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