On February 6, 2011, Palacio published the article “No to lies,” an opinion piece critical of President Correa and his government, in his Sunday column in El Universo. In response to the article, on March 21, 2011, President Correa filed a criminal suit against Palacio, the three executives of El Universo, and the company that owns the newspaper, for the crime of “slanderous libel.” President Correa’s criminal suit also requested US $80 million in damages. On July 20, 2011, a district court convicted the defendants, sentenced them to three years in prison, and ordered them to pay US $40 million in damages to President Correa. On September 20, the Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s sentence. On December 28, the Second Criminal Chamber of the National Court of Justice of Ecuador confirmed the decision and ordered Palacio to serve three years in prison and pay US $40 million in damages to President Correa.
In its legal report, HRF concludes that, with these actions, the Ecuadorean state violated the prohibition against the restriction of freedom of expression through the application of official defamation and desacato laws. Likewise, the Ecuadorean state violated the prohibition against the imposition of disproportionate civil sanctions for exercising the right to freedom of expression.
UPDATES: [February 8, 2012] Palacio files for political asylum in the United States.
[February 16, 2012] Ecuador's highest court upholds the conviction against Palacio.
[February 27, 2012] President Correa announces that he will grant a pardon to Palacio. HRF's report is filed as evidence by Palacio’s attorneys in the U.S. as basis for his political asylum claim.
[August 7, 2012] Palacio is granted asylum. His attorney thanks HRF:
“Your [communications] and report were very well written and comprehensive. They were instrumental to this case… Not only did I cite extensively your reports in my filings to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, but I also submitted full copies of the report along with the asylum application and other evidence. I thought you published one of the most thorough legal analyses of the matter I’ve seen so far.”
[August 31, 2012] Palacio is eventually pardoned by President Correa, and is granted asylum in the United States.