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El Salvador judge gives new charges for El Mozote massacre

AP  |  San Salvador 

A Salvadoran judge ruled Thursday that a group of former members of El Salvador's military, including leaders of the armed forces, will face new charges related to the 1981 El Mozote massacre, a gruesome point in the country's civil war.

Thirteen of the 17 ex-military officials on trial will now also be tried for the crimes of torture, forced disappearance and forced displacement that occurred during the war, according to a ruling from the judge in San Francisco Gotera, a town northeast of the capital.

The massacre in which 989 farmers were killed took place in the village of El Mozote in Morazn province.

Among those facing additional charges are former Defense Minister Jos Guillermo Garca; former head of the Salvadoran armed forces, Gen. Rafael Flores Lima; and the former leader of the country's air force, Gen. Juan Rafael Bustillo.

Bustillo has repeatedly claimed his innocence and petitioned the judge that he not be required to come to court for fear of being harmed by the victims' families.

Victims' relatives showed up at the hearing to demand justice, holding signs with phrases like: "The murderers want us to forget so they can secure their impunity" and "Neither forgiveness, nor forgetting."

In mapping out the chain of military command and weighing the evidence, the court said it took into account opinions from military experts, historians and anthropologists.

Judge Jorge Guzmn Urquilla ordered the investigation to reopen after El Salvador's Supreme Court repealed the 1993 General Amnesty Law that prevented war crimes and crimes against humanity from being investigated.

At the beginning of the trial, in early 2017, Guzmn Urquilla subpoenaed 18 former military members, including Garca and Flores Lima. Several others who have been implicated are already deceased.

On Thursday, the judge told Col. Jess Gabriel Contreras Alfaro, who was the head of operations for the armed forces in 1981, that evidence suggests the former military leader participated in the massacre.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, July 19 2019. 05:20 IST