Ex-Salvador military officer goes on trial in Spain

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. 

Ex-Salvadoran colonel sentenced in murder of Spanish Jesuits

A former Salvadoran army colonel who served as a government security minister has been sentenced to 133 years in prison after being found guilty of the murder of five Spanish Jesuits who died in one of the infamous atrocities of El Salvador's 12-year civil war.

Judges at Spain’s highest criminal court, the Audiencia Nacional, on Sept. 11 convicted Inocente Orlando Montano, 77, of the "terrorist murders" of the five Spaniards, who were killed along with a Salvadoran Jesuit and two Salvadoran women 31 years ago.

Montano was handed a sentence of 26 years, eight months and one day for each of the five murders. However, he will not spend more than 30 years in prison, the judges said. (The Guardian)

Martyrs beatified in El Salvador

The Roman Catholic Church beatified two priests and two lay people Jan. 23, all victims of right-wing death squads in El Salvador.

The Rev. Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit priest killed alongside lay-workers Manuel Solorzano and Nelson Lemus on March 12, 1977, was known for his ministry to the poor and was an inspiration to St. Óscar Romero, the then-archbishop of El Salvador who himself would be murdered three years later.

Franciscan priest Cosme Spessotto, an Italian who arrived in El Salvador in 1950, was shot dead while praying at the altar of his parish by soldiers on June 14, 1980. He was known for his work in Zacatecoluca, one of the poorest parts of El Salvador, and his unwillingness to leave even in the face of death threats. (AP, Vatican News)