Bolivian prosecutor in Dwyer case removed from post

Public prosecutor linked to evidence of tampering and blackmail

The head of Bolivia’s public prosecution service said prosecutor Marcelo Soza will not return to the trial of two men arrested in the 2009 police raid in which Michael Dwyer (above) was killed. Photograph: PA Wire

The head of Bolivia’s public prosecution service said prosecutor Marcelo Soza will not return to the trial of two men arrested in the 2009 police raid in which Michael Dwyer (above) was killed. Photograph: PA Wire

Sat, May 18, 2013, 01:00

The public prosecutor who for four years led the investigation into the events surrounding the killing of Irishman Michael Dwyer in Bolivia has been formally removed from his post after he was linked to evidence of tampering and blackmail.

The head of the country’s public prosecution service on Thursday said Marcelo Soza will not return to the trial of two men arrested in the 2009 police raid in which Dwyer was killed. Mr Soza abandoned the case in March claiming he had received death threats.

Extortion ring
But his decision to quit followed the emergence of evidence linking him to an extortion ring within the Bolivian government. In one audio recording Mr Soza can allegedly be heard discussing the planting and disappearing of evidence in the case which has led to dozens of government opponents being charged with terrorism offences.

Embarrassment
The development is a major embarrassment for Bolivia’s government as Mr Soza, though nominally independent, had carefully steered the investigation towards the political opposition to President Evo Morales.

He also deemed inadmissible evidence that contradicted the government’s version of events, which said police intervened to halt efforts to foment a separatist war in the east of the country.

The fall of Mr Soza follows the arrest late last year of the government’s chief lawyer at the trial in connection with blackmail in a separate case.

Authorities say the trial will continue, with new prosecutors taking over from Mr Soza. But lawyers for the defendants accused officials of blocking the investigation into the claims made by Mr Soza in the recordings in order to prevent the trial from collapsing. “There is an ‘impunity’ pact,” claimed Gary Prado Araúz, who is defending his father in the trial.

Faces charges
Mr Soza himself now faces charges for having abandoned his post during the trial. He is also accused of perverting the course of justice in order to cover up suspected drunk-driving by his son. The former prosecutor claimed the 19-year-old had been kidnapped for five hours last Saturday night by assailants who then crashed his car.

But witnesses to the crash said they saw no sign of the supposed kidnappers and investigators found a bottle of whiskey in the vehicle. Mr Soza’s son tested above the legal drink-driving limit and investigators say Mr Soza could be charged with providing false evidence.

Earlier this week Bolivia’s legislative assembly rubber-stamped a ruling by the constitutional court, which freed the president from a requirement contained in the 2009 constitution he helped draw up to step down when his current term ends.

The vote opens up the way for him to stand for a third term in next year’s presidential elections. It came as confrontations between striking workers and militants from Mr Morales’s Movement Towards Socialism party led to increasing tensions across the country.