For­eign re­porter caught up in Ecuador un­rest can stay: judge

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY PAOLA LOPEZ

A judge in Ecuador on Mon­day re­fused to de­port a Fran­coBrazil­ian jour­nal­ist who was cov­er­ing protests against Pres­i­dent Rafael Cor­rea’s gov­ern­ment.

Author­i­ties de­tained Manuela Picq, 38, and scores of oth­ers in the demon­stra­tions on Thurs­day that turned vi­o­lent.

“This au­thor­ity has de­cided to refuse de­por­ta­tion,” Judge Glo­ria Pinza said in pro­ceed­ings closely watched by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity amid con­cerns about re­spect for a free press.

Fol­low­ing Picq’s de­ten­tion, author­i­ties had asked for her re­moval al­leg­ing that she may have been in Ecuador with­out proper doc­u­men­ta­tion.

“I am re­ally pleased,” she said with a broad smile, rais­ing her arms in a vic­tory sign.

“It is a vic­tory for the de­fense, the at­tor­neys, for the press, and for stu­dents and the in­dige­nous move­ment,” added the jour­nal­ist who has worked with in­ter­na­tional media such as Al Jazeera.

Picq was ar­rested Thurs­day in Quito while stand­ing next to her part­ner and lawyer Car­los Perez.

He had or­ga­nized in­dige­nous groups to protest against Cor­rea’s gov­ern­ment. Thurs­day’s demon­stra­tions saw 67 po­lice in­jured and 47 de­mon­stra­tors de­tained.

“The truth al­ways wins in the end,” Perez said.

“We knew that this le­gal pro­ceed­ing was to­tally base­less. It was an ut­ter scan­dal what thy were try­ing to do legally.”

For­eign Min­is­ter Ri­cardo Patino said Picq was or­ga­niz­ing a protest with­out a per­mit.

Picq was in Ecuador on an aca­demic-cul­tural visa when she was ar­rested.

And her at­tor­ney Juan Pablo Al­ban said he would ask for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of doc­u­ments he al­leged were in­ap­pro­pri­ately used in her le­gal case.

In any event, “she is in a civil union with an Ecuado­ran and that is enough for her to be granted a visa” that would al­low her to stay in the coun­try, Al­ban added.

Hu­man Rights Watch, which Cor­rea has harshly crit­i­cized in the past, al­leged that Picq was a vic­tim of po­lice vi­o­lence.

In of­fice since 2007, Cor­rea — a left­ist and economist — has drawn in­creas­ing crit­i­cism over a con­sti­tu­tional re­form pack­age that would al­low him to stand for re-elec­tion when his cur­rent term ends in 2017.

Dis­con­tent has been am­pli­fied by an eco­nomic slow­down grip­ping the South Amer­i­can oil pro­ducer, hit hard by slid­ing crude prices.

In­dige­nous protesters, who have been par­tic­u­larly vo­cal crit­ics of Cor­rea, blocked roads in six of Ecuador’s 24 prov­inces Thurs­day, in­clud­ing the PanAmer­i­can High­way to Peru.

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