SAN SALVADOR – El Salvador’s Supreme Court has freed three of the four former military personnel who had been jailed over the 1989 killings of six Jesuit priests and two others, a spokesman for the families of the detained men told EFE.
The high court also denied a request for their extradition to Spain, whose National Court took up the case under a universal jurisdiction law and issued an indictment in 2011 accusing 20 civil war-era military officers of the murders.
“Thank God they’re with us and in complete liberty,” Francisco Cerna said after former Sgts. Ramiro Avalos Vargas and Tomas Zarpate Castillo and former Col. Angel Perez Vasquez were released in San Salvador.
The erstwhile military officers had been jailed since early February, when Salvadoran authorities, finally acting on international arrest warrants issued by Spain, took them into custody.
Former Col. Guillermo Benavides, who also was arrested that same day, will remain in custody because, unlike the others, he had been a beneficiary of El Salvador’s recently repealed 1993 Amnesty Law.
Twelve other former military officers being sought in El Salvador are still fugitives and will not turn themselves in, according to statements by their relatives on Friday.
On Nov. 16, 1989, an elite army unit entered the grounds of the Jesuit-run Central American University and killed six Jesuit priests – five of whom were Spanish -, their housekeeper and her daughter.
The priests, who according to the 2011 indictment were suspected of sympathizing with leftist FMLN rebels, were killed within the scope of El Salvador’s 1980-1992 civil war.