El Salvador: high court refuses to extradite officers accused in Jesuit Massacre

El Salvador’s Supreme Court on Aug. 25 blocked the extradition of nine military officers accused of overseeing the 1989 “Jesuit Massacre,” defying Interpol “red notices” for the suspects. The court said that Spain had not presented a formal extradition request, but Spain immediately protested that the Interpol warrants had been requested for the purpose of securing extradition for trial. Spanish Judge Eloy Velasco has sent El Salvador a letter seeking clarification of the suspects’ status. The men surrendered to judicial in El Salvador voluntarily earlier this month, but are not formally under arrest, the high court said. The court did deny a claim by defendants that their detainments were arbitrary.

Two soldiers were convicted in El Salvador in 1991 of having carried out the massacre, but were released after a year due to an amnesty pact—along with 18 other former military men convicted of war crimes. Spain indicted 20 soldiers for the attack this May, as five of the slain priests were Spanish.

One of the suspects, Inocente Orlando Montano, was charged earlier this week with immigration fraud in the US District Court of Massachusetts. Montano, a former Salvadoran deputy minister for public security, had been living under his real name in the town of Everett for 10 years, and was located by the Center for Justice & Accountability, a human rights group. According to the complaint against him, Montano wrote in federal documents that he never served in the Salvadoran military when he applied for special protection under US immigration law. In fact, Montano served in the Salvadoran military from 1963 until 1994, when he retired with the rank of colonel. In 1993, the UN Truth Commission for El Salvador named Montano as one of the top leaders in a meeting to plot the assassination of Father Ignacio Ellacuria, rector of the Central American University in San Salvador. Ellacuria was among those killed in the massacre, which took place on the university campus. Prosecutors said they are seeking to detain Montano unless he agrees to electronic monitoring. It is not yet known if the US will extradite him to Spain under the Interpol warrant. (AP, Aug. 26; Jurist, Aug. 25; Boston Globe, Aug. 23; Eurasia Review, July 30)

See our last posts on El Salvador and the struggle in Central America.

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