The Attorney General of the Republic of El Salvador formally charged former President Alfredo Cristiani and a group of soldiers on Monday for their alleged participation in the massacre of six Jesuit priests and their two collaborators perpetrated by an elite army commando in 1989.
The other defendants are retired soldiers who at the time of the massacre were in high command of the armed forces: General Juan Rafael Bustillo, General Juan Orlando Zepeda, General Rafael Humberto Larios, General Inocente Orlando Montano, Major Carlos Camilo Hernández Barahona, Colonel Nelson Iván López and Colonel Oscar Alberto León Linares.
They are accused of the crimes of homicide, acts of terrorism and conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism.
The accusation also includes the lawyer Rodolfo Parker, accused of manipulating statements that were given to the court of honor of the armed forces. They charge him with the crimes of procedural fraud and concealment.
One of the prosecutors in the case told reporters that “President Cristiani was present at the meeting where his execution” of the Jesuits was coordinated and authorized.
“We must consider that he is not just a witness. (General René) Emilio Ponce, who has already passed away, says that President Cristiani was there; we have other witnesses who also locate him in the place, ”he added.
Ponce was the chief of the general staff of the armed forces when the massacre took place.
The Prosecutor’s Office says that, prior to the events of November 16, 1989, when the command of the Atlacatl battalion entered the campus of the José Simeón Cañas Central American University (UCA) to assassinate the Jesuits and their two employees, Father Ignacio Ellacuría, One of the victims had several phone calls with Cristiani, who reportedly told him that “he shouldn’t worry about the records being carried out at the UCA.”
In March 2022, a court in San Salvador issued an arrest warrant and provisional detention against Cristiani for the crime of “commission by omission” in the case of the murder of the six Jesuit priests and their two collaborators.
Cristiani left the country in June 2021 after appearing before a special congressional commission investigating the bonuses of former government officials. When the judge’s decision was made known, her daughter Claudia published some photographs where her father appeared and said then that he was in “grandfather’s cradle”, referring to Italy, although it was not clear if she was there. .
The accusation occurred after the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice revoked in January 2022 a resolution of the Criminal Chamber, which ordered the closure of the process, giving it a statute of limitations.
Prosecutors explained that General Montano was already convicted in Spain for the murder of five Jesuit priests, Spanish citizens, but not by Salvadorans.
Montano is serving a 133-year sentence in Spain for his role in the massacre.
The Spanish Jesuits Segundo Montes, Ignacio Ellacuría, Ignacio Martín Baro, Armando López, Juan Ramón Moreno and the Salvadoran Joaquín López y López were executed with shots to the head after being put on their knees in the garden of the house where they lived inside the UCA campus. His two Salvadoran collaborators, Julia Elba Ramos and her daughter Celina Ramos, were also killed by the military.
The massacre occurred during one of the bloodiest offensives by the guerrilla Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), which was active in much of the country and in the capital. At first, the Cristiani government tried to attribute the massacre to the guerrilla forces, but a few hours later it was discovered that an elite commando of the armed forces perpetrated the crime.
In a trial considered opaque, Colonel Guillermo Benavides, two lieutenants, a second lieutenant and five soldiers from the US-trained Atalactl battalion were indicted for the massacre. A jury acquitted seven of the defendants in 1991.
Benavides and Lieutenant Yusshy Mendoza were convicted, but benefited from an amnesty promoted by Cristiani in 1993 after a report by the United Nations Truth Commission that investigated and documented the massacre, blaming the high military commanders for the murder.
After the amnesty law was repealed, a judge confirmed the 30-year sentence and Benavides returned to jail. His lawyers appealed the decision to a higher court without success. The alleged masterminds of the murder had not been prosecuted.