|Braulio Jatar Alonso, Reporte Confidencial
|September 3, 2016
Officers of Venezuela's national intelligence agency, Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional (SEBIN), detained Jatar, who manages the website Reporte Confidencial, a day after he reported on an anti-government protest, according to news reports and to his wife, with whom CPJ spoke.
Jatar, who is also a prominent opposition supporter, was detained as he went to a local radio station in Porlamar, the largest city on the Venezuelan Caribbean island of Isla Margarita, on September 3, 2016, his sister told Reuters.
According to news reports, authorities claimed he was in possession of the equivalent of $43,000 in cash, which they claimed was to be used to fund a "terror attack" during the September 13, 2016, summit of the Non-Aligned Movement on the island.
The arrest came a day after Jatar published text and video accounts of residents of the Porlamar neighborhood of Villa Rossa welcoming Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro with jeers and by banging pots and pans. Maduro abruptly cancelled plans for a televised event inaugurating renovated apartment buildings in the neighborhood, according to news reports, and the incident made international news headlines.
Pedro Arévalo, a lawyer for the Venezuelan legal rights group Foro Penal, claimed that authorities planted the money on Jatar, and that the journalist was detained in reprisal for publishing the protest video on his website. "All he did was to publish some videos," Arévalo told the Caracas daily El Nacional.
Silvia Martínez Jatar, the journalist's wife, told CPJ that her husband was first taken to the SEBIN judicial police station on Isla Margarita. She said he was worried because he has chronic high blood pressure and he feared the government planned to jail him on false charges.
Jatar had his first court hearing on September 5, 2016, where he was told he faces charges of money laundering, his wife told CPJ. If convicted of money laundering, Jatar could face up to 15 years in prison, his wife said.
"There was no crime, and they did not present any evidence," Jatar's defense attorney, Diomedes Potentini, told reporters.
On September 10, 2016, Jatar was transferred to the July 26 Prison in San Juan de los Morros, in Guarico State. Prison authorities prevented Jatar from calling family as part of a 30-day "adaptation" period, his wife told CPJ. During that period, he suffered from anxiety attacks and high blood pressure, and spent six days in the prison clinic. He first saw his lawyer, Diomedes Potentini, on September 20, 2016, some 17 days after he was detained. They have met only twice, his wife said.
On September 26, 2016, Jatar was moved to the prison in the city of Cumana, near Margarita Island, where his period of "adaptation" started again, meaning he was again prevented from contacting his family. Jatar is not allowed access to mobile phones or the internet. Jatar's wife said she was pleading with prison authorities to let him have access to a cardiologist of his choosing.
Jatar, 58, is also a lawyer and a political activist. In the 1990s he worked as a legal adviser to the Venezuelan Congress. He faced charges of extortion in 1991 and fled to Miami, according to news reports, but was later exonerated.
In 2007 Jatar founded the news website Reporte Confidencial on Isla Margarita, where he lives. He also worked closely with the opposition mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, who was under house arrest in late 2016, and has actively supported a recall referendum in which the opposition hopes to remove Maduro from office.
Jatar is a dual Venezuelan-Chilean citizen. The Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz said his government was "very concerned" about the case, according to news reports.
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