PANAMA CITY – Two Spanish journalists arrested over the weekend while covering protests in the Panamanian capital will be repatriated to Spain, diplomatic officials said.
Paco Gomez Nadal and Pilar Chato decided to request voluntary repatriation because after two days under arrest they were tired and saw that all the legal procedures being undertaken by Panamanian authorities in the case, which could last a number of days, were aimed at expelling them from Panama anyway, the sources said.
Gomez Nadal and wife Chato were arrested on Saturday and then handed over to immigration authorities.
Apparently Gomez Nadal’s immigration situation was not completely in order, and so the journalists opted for voluntary repatriation, a measure that should mean they will be prohibited from reentering Panama for two years, the sources said.
At present, it is unknown when the couple will travel to Spain, but they were allowed to return to their home on Monday in the custody of immigration agents.
While Panamanian authorities accuse Gomez Nadal of “instigating and organizing” the protests against a mining bill, Chato said her husband was at the Indian demonstration only as an observer and coordinator in Panama of the organization Human Rights Everywhere.
The journalist identified himself as such to the police officer who confronted him, but the latter then asked him to turn over the camera he was carrying, which Gomez Nadal refused to do whereupon he was arrested, and his wife – witnessing this – began to protest and was then also arrested.
Nadal, a freelancer for Madrid daily El Pais, and Chato, an editor for Diario Montañes, were taken on Sunday before the judge for the district of Ancon, who verbally admonished them for participating in the protest and left the case in the hands of immigration authorities.
Ngobe Bugle Indians staged demonstrations for three days in western Panama and the capital to protest mining legislation they say will put their communities at risk of environmental damage.
The government and the Indians on Sunday night came to an agreement in principle to unblock the highways that the latter have kept closed for three days and to begin a dialogue on Tuesday with the mediation of the Catholic Church. EFE