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Rights commission urges Ecuador president to suspend sentencing in libel suit

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) [official website] urged Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile] and his administration on Tuesday to postpone the sentencing of El Universo [official website, in Spanish] managers convicted of libel until after a hearing between the parties in March. The IACHR issued an injunction urging the Ecuador government to suspend sentencing [WSJ report] until arguments are made by both parties on March 28. El Universo is the second largest newspaper in Ecuador. Two of the four men, Cesar and Nicolas Perez, have already fled to Miami. The lawsuit has been heavily criticized by Correa's opposition.

Last week, Carlos Perez, one of four El Universo managers convicted of libel [JURIST report] against Correa, was granted asylum by Panama. The announcement that Carlos Perez had been granted asylum came shortly after Ecuador's highest court, the National Court of Justice, upheld the conviction against the four El Universo managers. The men were sentenced to three years in prison each and fined USD $40 million in total. Correa indicated that he was surprised that Panama granted the men asylum because, in his view, they were common criminals and not persecuted political activists. He also stated on Thursday that he was considering pardoning the men. The El Universo officials stated that they would bring an appeal to the IACHR to fight the verdict.

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