Court orders arrest of ex-president over murder of priests — Analysis

Alfredo Cristiani is accused of being aware of the military’s plans to kill six Jesuit clergymen in 1989

A court in El Salvador has issued an order for Alfredo Cristiani’s arrest. He is being held on suspicion of the 1989 killing of six Jesuit priests.

The six clergymen – five Spaniards and a Salvadorian, along with their housekeeper and her 16-year-old daughter – were killed on the campus of the Jesuit Central American University on November 16, 1989. It was carried out by an elite commando unit known as the Atlacatl Battalion during the country’s civil war, which was a counter-insurgency unit created in 1980 at the Panama-based US Army’s School of the Americas.

Prosecutors believe that Cristiani, who held the country’s top post between 1989 and 1994, knew of the murder plans but chose not to prevent the tragedy.

American guerrilla presidents

According to a statement by El Salvador’s attorney general’s office, the court ordered Cristiani and former lawmaker Rodolfo Parker, along with several former military officers, to be put “under provisional detention” pending further investigation.

Charges against Cristiani and others were filed on February 25, with Attorney General Rodolfo Delgado saying his office was “We are determined to pursue those who were responsible for this tragic and regrettable event..”

The former president, whose whereabouts are currently unknown, denies any involvement or knowledge of the military’s murder plan.

It is true that I did not know about the plots they used to execute those murders.” Cristiani said in a statement.

They didn’t ask me for permission or informed me because I knew they wouldn’t authorize that father. [Ignacio]Ellacuria, or his brothers, were injured,” Cristiani said.

To make the murder seem like it had been committed by leftist rebels, the crime was staged. Seven of the nine military officers initially tried were released by the court. Two others served brief sentences and were then freed under amnesty in 1993. Later, the amnesty was found to have been unconstitutional and one of these two officers – Colonel Guillermo Benavides – was jailed again and currently remains in prison. Inocente Montano was also sentenced in 2020 by a Spanish Court to 133 year imprisonment.

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