Activist Convicted Over Tweets About the Government

Derrick Broze
November 19, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) Cuenca, Ecuador — A prominent Ecuadorian activist has been sentenced to 15 days in prison for tweeting about relatives of the nation’s Labor Minister.

On November 11, Sebastián Cevallos, national deputy director of the Unidad Popular movement, was sentenced to prison after posting tweets alleging the niece of Labor Minister Carlos Marx Carrasco received a government position because of her relation to the Labor Minister. Cevallos was convicted of a class four misdemeanor under Article 396 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes acts that harm a person’s honor and reputation.

 Panam Post reports:

“The minister’s niece, Paula Francisca Rodas Espinoza, sued the social-media activist after feeling alluded to by his comments. However, Rodas Espinoza admitted that she has worked for the government’s National Institute of Cultural Heritage since July 2008.”

So what exactly did Sebastián Cevallos tweet?

NGO Fundamedios published a press release explaining the controversial tweets, which were posted in July of this year. Cevallos’ first tweet called for a press conference to denounce “acts of corruption by a high-ranking official of Alianza País [Correa’s party].” The second tweet asked Cevallo’s 1600 followers if they knew who the chairman of the Ethics Committee was. His third tweet mentioned that Rodas Espinoza was Carrasco’s niece and that she had previously worked in a government position.

Cevallos told Fundamedios that the court cited Article 66 of the Constitution, which refers to freedoms guaranteed to Ecuadorians. “It’s ridiculous to mention that article of the Constitution when they are sentencing me in the name of freedom and of freedom of expression,” Cevallos stated.

Cevallos told PanAm Post he is waiting for official notification of the ruling and plans to appeal the decision, which he considers “unfair.” The social activist also said Ecuador is violating the International Agreements on Human Rights, as well as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights.”

He also fears the ruling could open the doorway for prosecution of other online activists. “All political opinion on Twitter will be subject to criminalization,” he told PanAm Post. Still, the courageous activist is unwavering in his commitment to criticize Ecuador’s authorities. “We have decided that, if the court upholds the ruling, then I will be facing time in prison, and it will be like winning a medal of honor.”

Send messages of support and solidarity to Cevallos using the hashtag #TuitearNoEsDelito, which means “to tweet is not a crime.”

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