The Department of Justice filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of North Carolina today seeking the arrest and extradition of a former colonel in the Salvadoran army to face charges in Spain related to the murder of five Spanish Jesuit priests in El Salvador in 1989.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Walker of the Eastern District of North Carolina made the announcement.
Inocente Orlando Montano Morales, 72, formerly of Everett, Massachusetts, and 19 other former Salvadoran military officials have been indicted in Spain for the 1989 murders of five Spanish Jesuit priests during the 10-year Salvadoran civil conflict. An arrest warrant for Montano was issued by a Spanish magistrate.
According to allegations in the complaint filed in U.S. District Court today, between 1980 and 1991, El Salvador was engulfed in a civil conflict between the military-led government and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). During this conflict, in the early morning hours of Nov. 16, 1989, members of the Salvadoran military allegedly murdered six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and the housekeeper’s 16-year old daughter at the Universidad Centroamericana. Five of the Jesuit priests were Spanish nationals, and the remaining victims were from El Salvador. The Jesuit priests were allegedly advocates for discussions between the FMLN and the military-led government to end the strife.
At the time, Montano Morales was a colonel in the Salvadoran army, and he also served as Vice Minister of Defense and Public Safety. The complaint alleges that he shared oversight responsibility over a government radio station that, days before the massacre, issued threats urging the murder of the Jesuit priests. The day before the murders, Montano Morales also allegedly participated in a series of meetings during which one of his fellow officers gave the order to kill the leader of the Jesuits and leave no witnesses. The following day, members of the Salvadoran army allegedly executed the six priests, their housekeeper and the housekeeper’s daughter.
Montano Morales is currently serving a 21-month federal prison sentence in the United States for his 2013 conviction in the District of Massachusetts for immigration fraud and perjury in connection with false statements he made to immigration authorities to remain in the United States. He will be released from that prison sentence on April 16, 2015.
The allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and any finding of guilt or innocence will be made by Spanish courts upon Montano Morales’s extradition.
The case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Goulian and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney John Capin of the Eastern District of North Carolina and Trial Attorney Roberto Iraola of the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.
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