Guatemala arrests lawmaker in 2015 killing of 2 journalists

Ruling-party lawmaker Julio Juarez Ramirez is escorted by police to a courtroom in Guatemala City, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Authorities in Guatemala arrested Juarez Ramirez accused of orchestrating the murder of two journalists in 2015. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Ruling-party lawmaker Julio Juarez Ramirez is escorted by police to a courtroom in Guatemala City, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Authorities in Guatemala arrested Juarez Ramirez accused of orchestrating the murder of two journalists in 2015. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Ruling-party lawmaker Julio Juarez Ramirez is escorted by police to a courtroom in Guatemala City, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Authorities in Guatemala arrested Juarez Ramirez accused of orchestrating the murder of two journalists in 2015. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Lawmaker Julio Juarez Ramirez stands in a courtroom flanked by two police officers in a courtroom in Guatemala City, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Authorities in Guatemala arrested Juarez Ramirez accused of orchestrating the murder of two journalists in 2015. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

GUATEMALA CITY — A ruling-party lawmaker accused of orchestrating the murder of two journalists in 2015 was arrested in southwestern Guatemala on Saturday.

Public Ministry spokeswoman Yecenia Enriquez said Julio Antonio Juarez Ramirez was detained in the morning at his home in Suchitepequez department on a warrant sought by prosecutors and a U.N. anti-corruption commission.

Juarez is suspected of murder, attempted murder and criminal association for allegedly hiring hit men to kill journalist Danilo Efrain Lopez, fearing that his coverage would hurt Juarez's electoral campaign. A second journalist, Federico Benjamin Salazar, also died in the March 10, 2015, shooting, and Marvin Tunchez Ayala was wounded.

Juarez, a member of President Jimmy Morales' National Convergence Front party, has said he is innocent.

In November the Supreme Court lifted his immunity from prosecution that comes with elected office. That same month Morales praised Juarez's work and asked those present for a round of applause in recognition.

Handcuffed and wearing a pink dress shirt, a lavender tie and khakis, he was escorted by heavily armed police to a courtroom in Guatemala city later in the day.

Last month the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Juarez under the Global Magnitsky Act, which targets human rights abusers and corrupt officials.

In October a Guatemalan court sentenced to 30 years in prison a man convicted of driving a motorcycle used in the attack. Eduardo Ariel Mazariegos Ramirez, the alleged trigger man also said to have been riding on the motorcycle, remains at large.

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