Panama pardons Dutch journalist jailed for libel

Prison interior with dramatic lightPanama’s president Juan Carlos Varela has given an official pardon to Dutch journalist Okke Ornstein, who was arrested last month and ordered to spend three years four months in jail.

The Panama authorities published a list of names of people who are being pardoned on Tuesday. Ornstein will be freed on Friday if he does not object, the Dutch foreign ministry said.

‘It will be terrific if he is free in time to celebrate Christmas with his family,’ said foreign minister Bert Koenders.

Ornstein was arrested last month on a charge of criminal libel dating from 2012 as he entered Panama where he lives.

The libel charges followed articles on his blog Bananama Republic about the business practices of Canadian national Monte Friesner who lives in Panama City. The blog has since been closed down.

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