MADRID – Spain’s national court began on Monday the trial of former Salvadoran colonel Inocente Montano for his alleged role in the killing of five Spanish Jesuit priests during the civil war in El Salvador in 1989.
Montano will face trial alone after judges accepted the petition from the defense team of co-defendant and former aide Rene Yusshy Mendoza citing the statute of limitations.
Yusshy Mendoza, member of the Atlacatl army allegedly involved in the killing of eight people, mostly Catholic priests, on the grounds of the Central American University on Nov. 16, 1989, will now become a witness in the trial. His first testimony is set to take place on July 7.
Prosecutors are seeking 150 years in prison for Montano for the killing of five Spanish citizens, including Ignacio Ellacuria, who was the UCA rector and a supporter of dialogue between guerrillas and state forces in El Salvador during the war.
The former deputy head of defense is accused of “designing and executing the assassination” of Ellacuria, Ignacio Martin Baro, Segundo Montes Mozo, Amando Lopez Quintana and Juan Ramon Moreno Pardo.
He has been in preventive detention in Spain since 2017 and had lived in Boston since 2001 until his extradition.
He has also been accused of ordering the killing of three others, Joaquin Lopez, a priest, Julia Elba, a cook, and Celina Mariceth Ramos, her teenage daughter.
Spanish prosecutors have worked for three decades to bring the accused to justice.
Montano is due to appear before judges again on Wednesday.
Yusshy Mendoza’s transition from defendant to witness is likely to change the panoramic of the trial.
Montano is the only one of around 20 army officials accused of the killings to be brought before the Spanish judiciary. El Salvador blocked the extradition of the others.
Montano was a high-ranking member of the army at the time the United States backed the government against the revolutionary Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLM) insurgency.