Spain opens probe of 1989 El Salvador Jesuit killings

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A Spanish judge opened and investigation into the suspected involvement of 14 Salvadoran officers in the1989 killing of six priests.

Madrid- A Spanish judge Wednesday opened an investigation into the suspected involvement of 14 Salvadoran military officers in the 1989 killings of six Jesuit priests in the Central American country.

The probe is the result of a complaint filed by two human rights groups against the 14, who risk being prosecuted over the killings, one of the most notorious events in El Salvador's civil war.

The six Jesuit priests, most of whom had dual Salvadoran and Spanish nationality, were killed along with two female housekeepers by the Salvadoran military at their residence on the campus of the Central American University in San Salvador on 16 November 1989.

Spain's ambassador to San Salvador at the time, Fernando Alvarez de Miranda, told Judge Eloy Velasco Wednesday the killings were backed by "the highest levels" of the military.

The judge also heard testimony from members of a Spanish parliamentary committee who had traveled to El Salvador to gather information on the crime.

They reiterated the committee's findings that the armed forces had blocked any investigation into the crime and that the judiciary and the police lacked any independence.

Among the 14 accused in the complaint are four generals, Humberto Larios, Rene Emilio Ponce, Juan Rafael Bustillo and Juan Orlando Zepeda, and two colonels, Inocente Orlando and Francisco Elena Fuentes.

The rights groups accuse the 14 of crimes against humanity and state terrorism. They base their case on Spain's recognition of the right to pursue crimes against humanity or genocide anywhere in the world.

Nine members of the military have already been judged in El Salvador for the killings, which sparked international anger.

One, Colonel Guillermo Alfredo Benavides, was sentenced to 30 years in jail, but freed in 1993 under an amnesty law.

Another Spanish judge, Fernando Andreu, in January declared that the court was competent to take the case.

But he refused to include in the investigation former Salvadoran president Alfredo Cristiani, who the rights groups claim covered up the murders.

AFP / Expatica

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