Spain indicts 20 Salvadoran military officials for 1989 Jesuit murders

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MADRID, SPAIN (BNO NEWS) — Spain’s National Court on Monday indicted 20 Salvadoran military officials for their roles in the murders of eight Jesuits in November 1989, El Mundo newspaper reported.

Judge Eloy Velasco also issued arrest warrants for the 20 officials of El Salvador’s Army and initiated an investigation to locate the suspects who are currently at large. He also set a 3.2 million Euros ($4.58 million) bail for each one.


The ruling was made after Velasco questioned a married couple who witnessed the slayings that took place at the Jose Simeon Canas University (UCA). The fatal events occurred during the government of former President Alfredo Cristiani.

On November 16, 1989, members of the Salvadoran Army killed a Spanish national, Ignacio Ellacuría, dean of the UCA. In addition six other Jesuit priests (Amando Lopez, Juan Ramon Moreno, Segundo Montes, Ignacio Baro and Joaquín Lopez y Lopez) and two women were murdered.

Judge Velasco indicted seven military officials; including then Chief of the Armed Forces Rene Emilio Ponce (recently deceased), Deputy Minister of Defense Juan Orlando Zepeda, Deputy Minister of Public Safety Inocente Orlando Montano, Gen. Juan Rafael Bustillo, among others.

The indictment also included seven soldiers of the Atlacatl battalion which conducted the deadly operation. The 20 military officials are accused of eight counts of murder and one of crimes against humanity.

In January 2009, Colonel Guillermo Benavides and another nine soldiers were convicted over the murders of the eight Jesuits but freed in 1993 due to an amnesty law.

Ellacuría, who had dual-citizenship after residing in El Salvador, was a prominent theologist and supported the anti-government movements in the late 70s and 80s. El Salvador endured a 12-year-long civil war between government forces and the national liberation front (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional).

The murders of the eight Jesuits were part of the slaying of an estimated 75,000 unarmed civilians during the armed conflict. Judge Velasco said that 85 percent of these deaths were perpetrated by Army service members.

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