Two men freed after 54 days in jail for X post mocking ex Jujuy governor

Gerardo Morales justified their imprisonment by saying they were part of a smear campaign against him and his wife

Two men who had been arrested for posting messages mocking former Jujuy governor Gerardo Morales and his wife, Tulia Snopek, were freed on Monday after spending 54 days in pretrial detention. 

On Tuesday, Morales denied they had been arrested just for their online activity, but rather that it was because they had taken part in a smear campaign that psychologically damaged his wife and 2-year-old daughter.

Nahuel Morandini and Roque Villegas were arrested in early January after posting jokes on X referencing an alleged affair Snopek was having with a musician and doubting Morales was the child’s father.

The two men, who met each other in jail, are being accused of “altering or suppressing the identity of a minor less than 10 years old.” Snopek was the one who filed the complaint with the judiciary after reading their posts on X.

Rumors surrounding this supposed affair have been circulating online and in local news outlets since the beginning of the year. The story originated after musician Mauro Coletti, a member of the Argentine folk group Los Tekis, had a car accident on October 6. The scandal, however, broke in early January when a voice message saying Snopek was also in the car when the accident happened went viral. That’s when Villegas and Morandini posted about it on their X accounts, as did dozens of other users.

Prosecutor Walter Rondón ordered the pre-trial detention be terminated on Monday after the case started gathering interest around the country and even internationally, with social media campaigns calling for their release. Rondón said he decided to free the men given that he is close to finishing the preliminary investigation and is ready to take the case to trial. He added that, if convicted, the accused could face a minimum sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

“[The detention] is not just because of a simple tweet [sic],” Rondón said. He explained it was based on information extracted from the defendants’ social media and cell phones, but declined to give any details on what the information was. 

“We have enough evidence to take this case to trial,” he claimed. 

The two men are not the only ones targeted by the investigation. The prosecutor also launched an arrest order against Lucía González for allegedly sending WhatsApp messages about the affair rumors. “She is also being charged with going against the identity of a person under 10,” Rondón said.

Villegas and Morandini’s friends and family were waiting for them when they left the jail in San Salvador on Monday night. “There is someone pulling the threads so that judicial officials comply with ‘the boss’s’ orders, and that has to end,” Villegas said after leaving the penitentiary. He also stated that there were irregularities in their arrest.

In an interview with La Nación, Morandini said that while in jail, prison officers forced him to undress and filmed him nude on several occasions. “I wasn’t allowed to leave the cell clothed; I had to undress,” he claimed. The cell, he added, only had a small window and was constantly humid because the guards kept throwing water on the cement floor.

“They gave me a bucket and a plastic bottle to go to the bathroom; they also didn’t give me any toilet paper,” Morandini recalled. 

On Tuesday, Morales told Radio Mitre that the arrests did not happen just because of social media posts but rather because Morandini and Villegas organized a “scheme” along with the indigenous political movement Tupac Amaru. He claimed that their plot included “posing doubts” regarding the identity of a two-year-old, as well as inflicting “psychological damage aggravated by gender-based violence” against his wife.

“I want this issue to reach the Supreme Court,” Morales said. “Who will repair all this psychological damage? What do I tell my daughter when she asks me who her father is?,” he asked.

He also denied that his wife was involved in the October 6 car accident. “I was admitted to the Hospital Italiano on October 5, and she was with me until October 8,” he said, adding that he also didn’t cancel the musical festival organized by Los Tekis.

“That is also a lie,” he stated.

The incident has even made its way to the highest levels of Argentine politics.  President Javier Milei expressed worry over the detention this week, calling Morales “a repressor” and saying the political caste is “covering for him.” He also liked several posts on X that mocked  Morales’ wife with lewd images.

— with information from Télam


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