A well-known physician in Ecuador was detained Tuesday and sent to serve a six-month prison sentence for defamation against President Rafael Correa, in another blow to free speech in the small Andean nation.
Carlos Figueroa had been in hiding since March 21, when an Ecuadorian court issued a warrant for his arrest, along with opposition congressman Cléver Jiménez and his adviser Fernando Villavicencio. The three men were convicted in April of defaming the president by accusing him of crimes against humanity in ordering the military to use force to free him from a hospital where he was held captive during a 2010 police protest. Both Jiménez and Villavicencio received 18-month sentences.
The men had reportedly been in hiding under the protection of an indigenous community in Ecuador’s Amazon region, though community leaders announced in May that the three were no longer there.
Figueroa was arrested in a neighborhood on the northern outskirts of Quito. According to his sister, Zulema Mantilla, Figueroa was visiting his mother, who has cancer.
Human rights groups have questioned the independence of Ecuador’s judiciary, accusing Correa of stacking the courts with those loyal to him. Lucy Blacio, the federal judge that handed down the defamation sentences, is a former member of Correa’s cabinet.
Additional reporting by Associated Press