Twitter critics of Bukele government being prosecuted
The first of these persons is a tech worker named Luis Alexander Rivas, who had been tweeting under the anonymous Twitter account @_elcomisionado_. Rivas has used that Twitter account, where he has 8400 followers, to be a vitriolic critic of the Nuevas Ideas-controlled government.
Rivas was initially arrested on August 21, shortly after he published a tweet with a photo criticizing the use of public funds in a deployment of public security forces at the beach providing security for the president's brother Karim Bukele and his family. It certainly wasn't the first time that Rivas had tweeted critiques of the president's family. His tweets have often been directed at first lady Gabriela Bukele as well.
Although the charges against Rivas have nothing to do with the war on gangs under the State of Exception, authorities took advantage of the suspension of due process protections under the emergency decree to wait 14 days before he received an initial hearing on Monday, September 5. (Outside of the State of Exception no more than 72 hours should pass between arrest and initial hearing). For much of that time his whereabouts were unknown to his family, and authorities would not reveal what charges were being lodged against him. A campaign demanding his release sprang up on Twitter almost immediately.
On Monday, September 5, Rivas was finally brought in front of a judge. Prosecutors told the judge they were charging him with the crime of "desacato" or disrespect of a public official. "Desacato" is defined under Art. 339 of the Salvadoran criminal code as offending the honor or integrity of a public official through word or deed, or to threaten a public official in person or through a writing. And the offended persons, prosecutors told the judge, are the Public Administration of El Salvador and President Nayib Bukele. Its not clear whether prosecutors were using the tweet about Karim Bukele on the beach as a basis for the charge, or if that tweet was simply a triggering event.
The court did not dismiss the charges on Monday, but ruled that Rivas could be released on bond and would not need to be held in prison while his case was pending (unlike the fate of the 50,000 others arrested during the State of Exception who are overwhelmingly not released).
Prosecutors apparently were under orders not to let Rivas walked free, because they promptly arrested him on new charges and took him back into custody right after the hearing. The nature of the new charges was not disclosed.
El Salvador's attorney general tweeted at the moment of Rivas' re-arrest:
Se ha hecho efectiva orden de captura contra Luis Alexander Rivas Samayoa.— Rodolfo Delgado (@FiscalGeneralSV) September 5, 2022
Una cosa es la libertad de expresión y otra es atentar contra la integridad de las personas.
La libertad de expresión no puede ser usada para cometer delitos. pic.twitter.com/Z8DPvhJi2v
An arrest warrant has been issued against Luis Alexander Rivas Samayoa.Freedom of expression is one thing and attacking the integrity of people is another.Freedom of expression cannot be used to commit crimes.