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Suspect Arrested in Case of Slain Journalist

November 2, 2007

TEGUCIGALPA – A suspect in the killing last month of a Honduran journalist has been arrested again after being released Oct. 27 on the orders of an assistant prosecutor, a high-level police officer said.

German David Almendarez was again detained after the Attorney General’s Office “admitted there was a mistake” on the part of assistant prosecutor Gea Garay, said Francisco Murillo, chief of the police criminal investigations agency.

Deputy Attorney General Omar Cerna said that the decision by Garay to release the suspect in the killing of journalist and comedian Carlos Salgado was “a gross error.”

Cerna told reporters that the Attorney General’s Office was “surprised” that the 21- year-old Almendarez had been released Oct. 27 after being arrested a day earlier by police in a poor Tegucigalpa neighborhood.

Garay’s decision to release Almendarez “was precipitated without consulting other prosecutors involved in the investigation of the case,” Cerna said.

Murillo told reporters that police began looking for Almendarez shortly after his release and found him at his house in the Altos del Picacho neighborhood with relatives and his attorney,Marco Zelaya.

Officers asked Almendarez to go to police headquarters to give a new statement. He obliged and he went there in his attorney’s vehicle.

Upon his arrival, he was arrested and placed in a cell, where he will be held until being taken before a judge, Murillo said.

The police chief said Almendarez is a member of a gang that includes several family members and he has a record for robbery and other minor crimes. When he was first arrested Oct. 26, Almendarez had a 9-mm pistol that had been reported stolen and is believed to have been used to kill Salgado, Murillo said.

Salgado, the creator and star of a popular radio comedy show that often lampooned politicians, was gunned down Oct. 18 as he was leaving the Tegucigalpa studios of Radio Cadena Voces.

Witnesses said two men fired handguns at Salgado and then sped off in a car. The comedian died within minutes of arriving at the hospital.

Salgado was the producer and protagonist of “Las historietas de Frijol El Terrible” (The Cartoons of Bean The Terrible), which aired daily on RCV.

The station’s news director, Dagoberto Rodríguez, described the killing as “an attack on the work of Radio Cadena Voces,” a media outlet that often reports on alleged misconduct by members of the administration of President Mel Zelaya, whose first 20 months in office have been marked by frictions with the press.

Rodríguez did not point a finger at any particular individual or group.

The slaying of Salgado followed a Sept. 7 incident in which television newscaster Geovanny García was wounded when shots were fired at his car on a Tegucigalpa street.

The Tegucigalpa dailies El Heraldo and La Prensa reported earlier this month that in recordings of cell phone conversations between Zelaya and government officials now circulating on the Internet, the president and his aides talked about manipulating or influencing the media to report on the government in a more favorable manner.

Cerna said a commission has been appointed to investigate the suspect’s release and determine whether any penalties should be imposed on Garay.

 

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