Sala IV sets strict rule for secret legislative sessions

The Sala IV in a seven-part ruling said that a general legislative rule that allows lawmakers to meet in secret is unconstitutional.

The case came to the constitutional court in an action by the Colegio de Periodistas, the journalism professional organization. Lawmakers met in secret to discuss and eventually lift legislative immunity from Jorge Angulo, a lawmaker facing criminal charges.

Although the constitutional court threw out a general rule for secret session, it did say that lawmakers, with a two-thirds vote, could hold secret session for specific and concrete matters.

The court said that the legislature should be transparent with great intensity. The court cited an article in the Costa Rican Constitution that requires open sessions unless a two-thirds vote is taken. The Sala IV, of course, made the judicial decision in secret.

The legislative vote on Angulo turns out to be moot. Due to his illness and other delays, the man and 11 others accused in the case will not take place until he leaves office April 30. At that time he would have lost his legislative immunity anyway.

The allegations are influence peddling, extortion and bribery. Angulo is a lawmaker for the Partio Liberación Nacional, and the allegations stem form activities in the south Pacific coast.

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