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Journalist among J20 defendants still being charged

Journalist among J20 defendants still being charged
From Al Jazeera - January 20, 2018

Journalist Aaron Cantu is among 59 defendants still facing the grim prospect of decades behind bars after being arrested at a protest during US President Donald Trump's inauguration last year.

On Friday afternoon, Cantu's lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the charges against the reporter, arguing that moving forward with his prosecution would "set a dangerous precedent for journalists", according to the filing.

"The indictment does not contain any specific allegations that Mr Cantu himself engaged in any violent or destructive acts," the filing reads.

The prosecution's case against Cantu is largely focused on his knowledge of the protest tactics and the fact that he remained in the area of the protesters while property damage took place.

"The most the indictment alleges is that Mr Cantu was present at the demonstration, followed along with it, and was wearing dark clothing - all of which are consistent with reporting on the Inauguration Day demonstration as a journalist," the document reads.

"The governments prosecution of Mr Cantu is the most severe type of government restriction possible," it adds.

"The government is not simply trying to limit what Mr.Cantu publishes as a journalist, but to actually prosecute and imprison him for exercising his First Amendment newsgathering right."

Charges dismissed for 129 defendants

The motion comes a day after the US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia filed a motion to dismiss indictments for 129 of 188 defendants who were arrested during the anti-capitalist bloc protest on January 20, 2017.

In that court filing, the US Attorneys' Office for DC said it would focus on the remaining 59 defendants by dropping the charges against 129 others.

"In so doing, the court, the government, and the [remaining 59] defendants can proceed more expeditiously with their trials," wrote Jennifer Kerkhoff, the lead prosecutor, in the motion to dismiss.

More than 230 people - protesters, journalists, medics, legal observers and bystanders - were arrested and charged with felony rioting during the anti-capitalist bloc march on January 20 last year.

Twenty had their charges dropped, while an additional 20 have reached plea deals.

After the DC Superior Court returned a superseding indictment in April, more than 212 defendants were facing a swath of felony charges.

In December, a jury found the first batch ofsix defendants-among them independent photojournalist Alexei Wood - not guilty on all counts.

At the time that the government decided to drop charges for 129 defendants, there were still 188 people with pending cases.

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'Still repression'

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