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Former El Salvador colonel sentenced to prison for murder of five Jesuits in 1989
© WikiMedia (Johan Bergström-Allen)
Former El Salvador colonel sentenced to prison for murder of five Jesuits in 1989

Spain’s National Court announced Friday that the former colonel and deputy minister, Orlando Montano Morales, has been sentenced to 133 years and four months in prison on charges of murdering five Jesuits in 1989. 

The court found him guilty of five charges of “murder of a terrorist nature” and imposed a sentence of 26 years, 8 months, and one day in prison for each murder. Additionally, the judges also found him guilty of murders of another Salvadoran Jesuit, the university cook, and her 15-year-old daughter. However, they could not convict him for these acts as these were not stated in the extradition document.

The murders occurred in 1989 when Orlando Montano was Deputy Minister for Public Security amidst El Salvador’s civil war. During the internal armed conflict between government forces and the guerrillas of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), more than 75,000 people were tortured, extrajudicially executed, or forcibly disappeared according to an Amnesty International report. The civil war lasted for more than ten years.

Montano fled to the United States in 2002. He served two years in jail in the US on charges of immigration fraud. In 2011, a Spanish magistrate issued an arrest warrant for him and 19 former Salvadoran soldiers. He was extradited to Spain from the US in 2017.

After the hearing, lawyer Manuel Olle said, “Justice has been served today after more than 31 years have passed. Justice has been done with the victims, the five Spanish Jesuits, with the Salvadoran people, and with the entire society that then suffered the murders, disappearances, and torture.” Erika Guevara Rosas, Director Amnesty International said, “This historic ruling is an important step in the search for justice that has been denied to the victims of the armed conflict in El Salvador. It’s also a reminder of the enormous debt that the Salvadoran state owes in ensuring truth, justice & reparation.”