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Ecuadorean Judge Says Correa’s Lawyer Wrote Universo Sentence

An Ecuadorean judge denied her role in a court ruling that awarded President Rafael Correa $40 million for libel in July and said the statement was really drawn up by the president’s own lawyer.

Monica Encalada said she played no part in the verdict that sentenced the owners of the newspaper El Universo and a former editor at the publication to three years in prison and awarded the compensation to Correa, according to a statement posted today on the newspaper’s website. The judge fled the country last night, television station Ecuavisa said today.

Another judge in the case had previously said he drafted the ruling with Encalada’s help. Correa, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, has drawn international criticism, including from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, for seeking the prison sentences. Encalada’s statement backs up previous accusations made by El Universo’s lawyers.

“I haven’t collaborated in any way, nor have I added even half a word to the sentence that exists against El Universo,” Encalada said in the statement.

Gutemberg Vera, one of Correa’s lawyers, drafted the sentence and offered about $750,000 to another judge in the case to rule in favor of the president, she said in the statement.

Vera responded by accusing Encalada of corruption and said that if her claims are true, she committed a crime for not speaking up sooner, according to a statement published in the president’s official gazette.

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