Ex-Salvador military officer goes on trial in Spain

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A former Salvador military commander, Inocente Montano, went on trial in Spain this month, accused of ordering the murder of six Spanish Jesuit priests in 1989. Two Salvadoran women were also killed in the incident. Montano was formerly held in the US, but was extradited to Spain in 2017. Ex-colonel Montano was the vice-minister of public security in El Salvador during its civil war from 1979-1992. Montano commanded troops believed to be responsible for at least 1,169 human rights violations. Additionally, prosecutors believe Montano was part of the paramilitary group La Tandona. This far-right group of military leaders carried out extrajudicial executions of those who supported a peace deal with the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) guerillas.

The six priests and two others were murdered at the Universidad Centroamericano in San Salvador. Five of the deceased were Spanish nationals, and Spain has been seeking to put Montano on trial for years. One of the deceased, Father Ignacio Ellacuría, was the rector of the University and a central figure in the Liberation Theology movement in Central America. Ellacuría supported holding peace talks with the FMLN.

Ex-lieutenant René Yesshy Mendoza confessed to his part of the plan, and is now acting as a witness for prosecutors.

Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of 150 years, alleging that Montano took part in the “decision, design, and execution” of the murders.

The trial will be livestreamed in El Salvador. It is expected to conclude in July.

From Jurist, June 10.

Photo: Wikimedia