OAS Commission on Human Rights Holds Emergency Hearing / Wrongly Jailed Ecuadorian Financier's Safety Feared

Washington (ots-PRNewswire) - Dr. Aspiazu's Attorneys Call Shift to Violent Prison 'Latest Attack In Campaign of Intimidation'

The Organization of American States (OAS) Commission on Human Rights held an emergency hearing late yesterday in response to fears that the life of Fernando Alfredo Aspiazu Seminario may be in danger. Abducted by the Ecuadorian military in July, Dr. Aspiazu was recently moved from a minimum security facility to maximum security Garcia Moreno Prison in Quito, one of the most violent prisons in Ecuador.

The Ecuadorian government has offered no reason why Dr. Aspiazu was moved to the dangerous prison. A team of human rights attorneys and one of Dr. Aspiazu's daughters presented evidence to OAS authorities, headed by Ambassador Valencia, Deputy Secretary of the Commission, and demanded his immediate release.

Maria de Los Angeles Aspiazu said, "It is a violation of both the new Ecuadorian constitution and the InterAmerican Convention on Human Rights for an individual who has not been convicted of a crime to be incarcerated with people who have already been convicted and sentenced. Once again, my father's constitutional rights have been violated."

Dr. Aspiazu was kidnapped by the military in July from a courtroom where he was seeking an injunction preventing the government from seizing his bank. He was subsequently detained on a military base in private quarters. Aspiazu has recently presented evidence that campaign finance and military procurement laws were broken by top Ecuadorian government civil and military officials. An elite Ecuadorian police unit transferred Dr. Aspiazu to the Garcia Moreno Prison last weekend.

"It is absolutely unconscionable to put Dr. Aspiazu's life on the line because he spoke out against corruption," said Aspiazu attorney Carlos Vargas. "Dr. Aspiazu is now held with the most violent convicted criminals that Ecuador has, although he has never been convicted of a single charge. This is the latest attack in a campaign of intimidation."

Attorney Herman Perez-Loose added: "Our country needs investment and economic partners. How can we attract foreign capital when there is no rule of law in Ecuador, when business leaders who criticize the government are systematically attacked?"

Aspiazu's legal team expressed hope that the OAS would issue a preliminary injunction against the Ecuadorian government for Aspiazu's immediate release pending the outcome of a fair judicial process. "Something must be done immediately," said Perez-Loose. "Today he sits in solitary confinement at a violent facility designed for convicted criminals while his human rights are being violated."

It is widely believed that Dr. Aspiazu's military abduction without a warrant and subsequent treatment is in retaliation for criticism of the government by media organizations owned by Dr. Aspiazu, or for the filing of injunction proceedings against the Ecuadorian government by Banco del Progreso S.A., of which Dr. Aspiazu is a majority shareholder. In addition to his bank ownership, Dr. Aspiazu had a majority ownership stake in SI TV, a local television station based in Guayaquil, and owns El Telegrafo, Ecuador's oldest newspaper, which have been critical of Ecuadorian government policies and specifically its economic policies. In addition, Dr. Aspiazu was until recently the majority owner of the largest private electric utility in Ecuador, EMELEC. In June, 1999, EMELEC commenced proceedings in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia seeking judgment against the Government of Ecuador in the sum of over $800 million on an international arbitration award and for breaches by the Government of the electric concession agreement with EMELEC. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Aspiazu was abducted in Guayaquil.

Background and Chronology

1998-99: Ecuadorian bank crisis

March-July, 1999: Regulatory proceedings regarding Banco del Progreso

June, 1999: EMELEC sues Government for $800 million

June, 1999: Government terminates negotiations over re-capitalizing Banco del Progreso

July, 1999: Aspiazu files for injunction against government taking over the bank

July 12, 1999: Court hearing on injunction

July 12, 1999: Military surrounds courthouse and abducts Dr. Aspiazu (without a warrant) from courtroom over protests of judge

July 14, 1999: Government charges Aspiazu criminally with Bank's failure to pay taxes

July, 1999: Government seizes Banco del Progreso

July 28, 1999: Mrs. Aspiazu appeals to OAS for human rights intervention

July-November, 1999: Dr. Aspiazu is held in minimum security detention facility

November, 1999: Dr. Aspiazu announces that President Mahuad and his campaign did not report a legal $3 million contribution. Major national scandal. Warrant issued for campaign manager's arrest

November, 1999: Dr. Aspiazu calls attention to military procurement scandal during war with Peru: current Ecuadorian Minister of Defense approved inflated payments for non-functional arms from Argentina

December 4, 1999: Dr. Aspiazu is moved to maximum security prison

ots Original Text Service: Coudert Brothers, Lawyers for Dr. Aspiazu Internet: http://www.newsaktuell.de

Contact: Carlos Mendez-Penate of Coudert Brothers, (USA) 212-626-4424; or Jeff Hannah of National Strategies, Inc., (USA) 202-429-8744, for Coudert Brothers

*** OTS-ORIGINALTEXT UNTER AUSSCHLIESSLICHER INHALTLICHER

VERANTWORTUNG DES AUSSENDERS ***

OTS-ORIGINALTEXT PRESSEAUSSENDUNG UNTER AUSSCHLIESSLICHER INHALTLICHER VERANTWORTUNG DES AUSSENDERS | PRN/OTS-PRNEWSWIRE