New York, April 7, 2008—Four men have been convicted and sentenced to 11 years apiece in the November 2004 murder of Mexican photographer Gregorio Rodríguez Hernández. The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the convictions as an important step against impunity in attacks on the press.
Judge Daniel Armenta Rentería convicted former Escuinapa Police Chief Abel Enríquez Zavala on charges that he acted as an intermediary between the mastermind and the perpetrators, court secretary Juan Carlos López told CPJ. Pedro Salas Franco, Francisco Pineda Sarmiento, and Elías Alvarez González were convicted of carrying out the crime, López said. Investigators have not publicly specified a motive or identified the person who commissioned the killing.
“We hail these convictions as an important stride in combating impunity in the murders of journalists,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call on state and federal authorities to find the mastermind of this crime so justice can be served in the murder of Gregorio Rodríguez.”
Rodríguez was gunned down in front of his family in a cafeteria in the town of Escuinapa on November 28, 2004. The 35-year-old photographer worked for the Mazatlán edition of the newspaper El Debate.
Armed men approached Rodríguez when he was eating with his wife and sons, 3 and 6, and opened fire, according to The Associated Press and local news reports. He was shot at least five times, news reports said.
Although López said that the investigation was not able to establish a motive for the murder, a colleague of the victim told CPJ that he believes the killing was in retaliation for Rodríguez’s work. Political columnist Fernando Zepeda said that Rodríguez had taken photographs of local officials, including former police commander Enríquez, with alleged drug traffickers. The four defendants have appealed, according to local press reports.