Controversial political secrets law called a big judicial mess

A penal expert told lawmakers Wednesday that a new criminal law is the biggest judicial mess that he has seen in 30 years.

The expert, Juan Diego Castro Fernández, was talking about the new infotec law that creates, among other things, a political secrets act. Much of the law is clearly unconstitutional, but lawmakers passed it anyway, and President Laura Chinchilla signed it.

Castro said that the law does not only affect newspeople but also citizens. He said he was concerned by what he called the dangerous judicialization of politics.

The measure penalized with prison the disclosure of what it calls political secrets but does not define these secrets. The law also prohibits the use of handles or pen names in computerized messages.

Journalism groups are up in arms about the law, which they have battled for months. They were appalled that Ms. Chinchilla signed the document and that it was published as a law in the La Gazeta official newspaper. Penalties run up to eight years in jail.
Castro said that the law was not a gag but a guillotine with draconian penalties. The law also prohibits suspended sentences for those convicted.

The Colegio de Periodistas and other groups have been fighting the law for months. The colegio, the journalist professional group, said Friday that an action of unconstitutionality has been filed against the law by the Defensoría de los Habitantes. The colegio is expected to file a companion action.

The law comes after a long series of disclosures in the press of various aspects of corruption from the Alcatel bribery scandal to the current problems with the Ruta 1856 at the northern border of the country.

Castro was testifying before the Comisión Permanente Especial de Derechos Humanos.

Juan Carlos Mendoza Garcia, a lawmaker, said that his party, the Partido Acción Ciudadana, was preparing a substitute text for the law. President Chinchilla has promised to do the same thing.

The law is called in Spanish by opponents the Ley Mordaza or “gag law”

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