Salvador court refuses to release slayer of U.S. nuns
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) -- One of two former soldiers still
imprisoned for the 1980 slaying of four U.S. religious workers has lost an appeal
for release, the Supreme Court announced Thursday.
Magistrate Eduardo Tenorio said the court rejected the petition of Francisco
Orlando Contreras because it believed he had not been rehabilitated.
A former member of the country's National Guard, Contreras was one of five
men sentenced to 30 years in prison in 1984 for the slayings of nuns Ita Ford,
Maura Clarke and Dorothy Kazel, and layworker Jean Donovan during the
country's civil war.
The women had been detained at a highway checkpoint in December 1980 while
headed to the capital from the nearby international airport. Their bullet-riddled
bodies were found a day later. They apparently had been raped.
Three of the men were freed in 1998 for good behavior under a law that
some sentences to ease prison overcrowding.
Contreras and Carlos Joaquin Contreras Palacios were kept in prison because
they had participated in a prison uprising.
Human rights organizations have long pressed the government to act against
higher-ranking military figures they say were responsible. Families of the victims
said they believe the women were targeted because officials suspected they
sympathized with leftist guerrillas during the war.
In an interview earlier this year, Francisco Contreras reiterated the soldiers'
that they were only acting on orders, and he asked the victims' families for
"It wasn't the group's decision, it was an order. We opposed the crime,"
Contreras said. But he said he did not know where the order originated.
San Salvador Archbishop Fernando Saenz had asked the government to pardon
Contreras and Contreras Palacios.
Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.