Lawyer for jailed Guatemalan news director is arrested

GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemalan authorities arrested a lawyer representing the jailed director of an investigative newspaper Thursday and pursued a second lawyer for alleged obstruction of justice.

José Rubén Zamora of El Periodico was ordered to stand trial on money laundering charges in December related to a 2013 donation to his newspaper that he asked a friend to deposit to hide the donor’s identity.

Zamora and his paper had aggressively pursued stories of wrongdoing and corruption in the current administration of President Alejandro Giammattei. El Periodico stopped publishing a print addition Nov. 30 due to its financial difficulties.

Anti-corruption prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche said in a video statement that Zamora’s lawyers had conspired to obstruct the investigation. Mario Castañeda was arrested and authorities were seeking the arrest of Romeo Montoya.

Free press organizations have declared the pursuit of Zamora as an attempt to silence a critical voice in the media. Currucchiche was sanctioned by the US government last year for allegedly obstructing corruption investigations.

The United States and international human rights groups have been critical of the deterioration of judicial independence in Guatemala. More than 30 judges, prosecutors and other members of the legal system have fled into exile to avoid prosecutions.

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