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U.S. Wants Salvadoran Ex-Officer To Face Charges Over Priests’ Deaths

The U.S. government has taken steps to have a former colonel in El Salvador's army face charges in Spain for the 1989 murders of five Jesuit priests.

The former colonel, Inocente Orlando Montano Morales, 72, is to be released next week from a U.S. federal prison where he's serving a sentence for immigration fraud and perjury. The Department of Justice filed a complaint Wednesday in federal district court in North Carolina seeking Montano's extradition to Spain where he faces charges.

The government alleged in its complaint that Montano, who also served as vice minister of defense and public security, shared oversight responsibility over a government radio station that issued threats urging the murder of the priests. DOJ also alleged Morales participated in meetings held days before the massacre and during which officers issued the order to kill the Jesuits and leave no witnesses. On Nov. 16, 1989, the priests, their housekeeper and her 16-year-old daughter were shot to death at the Jesuits' home. The priests were natives of Spain and the other two victims were from El Salvador.

The massacre came amid El Salvador's civil war between the military-led government and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). The priests had been calling for discussions between the two sides to end the violence.

Also Wednesday, Immigration and Customs Enfrocement deported Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, a former Salvadoran defense minister. An immigration appeals panel dismissed his challenges to his ordered deportation after finding that numerous killings had occurred during his time in that role and as a general of the Salvadoran army, including the rapes and killings of four American nuns.

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- Suzanne Gamboa