MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The Guatemala attorney general’s office confirmed on Saturday the arrest of congressman Julio Juarez Ramirez, who is accused of plotting the murders of two journalists in 2015.
Prosecutors and investigators with the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala said the politician orchestrated an attack on journalists Danilo Efraín Zapón López and Federico Benjamín Salazar Gerónimo, who were killed in March 2015.
Juarez was arrested on Saturday morning near his home in the southern district of Suchitepéquez and transferred to Guatemala City, the capital of the Central American nation. He maintained his innocence as he reported to court on Saturday afternoon.
“He who owes nothing fears nothing, that’s why I’m here in the name of God, who will clear up everything,” Juarez told reporters. “Talk to the press of Suchitepéquez and you will realize that I never, never had problems with the press.”
Juarez served as mayor of the southern city of San Antonio La Union from 2012 to 2015, before winning a seat in Congress the next year. According to investigators, Zapon, who was a journalist for the newspaper Prensa Libre, was attacked because he was working on a story about corruption in the Juarez’s administration.
Last December, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned Juarez under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act for his alleged role in the attack.
Local media reported in 2015 that Juarez described himself as a friend of Zapon’s and admitted to meeting the journalist the day he was killed.
“That’s why they want to investigate me, but I am free of any involvement with him,” Juarez told local media.
(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; writing by Julia Love; Editing by David Gregorio)