Local February 26, 2016 | 12:51 pm

Trial pits Dominican Republic’s robust media, powerful Catholic Church

Santo Domingo.- A hearing in a slander case set forThursday next week could set a precedent in the Dominican Republic, pitting anever stronger and outspoken media against the powerful Catholic Church.

Catholic priest Manuel Ruiz charged five prominentjournalists with slander stemming from the sexual abuse scandals caused by thelate bishop Jozef Wesolowski and priest Wojciech Waldemar Gil (Padre Alberto).

For more than five hours National District 8thPenal Chamber judge Teofilo Andujar heard the indictment from prosecutors andthe defense claim of persecution, which cited three previous acquittals byother courts.

The journalists Marino Zapete, Altagracia Salazar, DianaLora, Franklin Guerrero and Juan Tomas Dottin are charged with defamation andslander, but claim a violation of their right to free expression.

Some of the charges stem from the journalists’ allegedcomments on the case against Gil for sexually abusing boys in the highland townof Juncalito, and a similar case against Wesolowski, the former envoy of theVatican in the capital.

Gil was convicted and is serving an 8-year sentence in Poland,whereas Wesolowski was found dead of an apparent heart attack in Rome while awaitingtrial.