October 24, 2000

Salvadoran Jesuits may take case of slain priests to Spanish court

                  SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) -- Frustrated by another setback in efforts
                  to punish the killers of six priests, Jesuit leaders here are threatening to take the
                  issue to a Spanish court.

                  "We are trying to air the case in El Salvador to prove that it is possible justice be
                  done, or to show why justice is not possible," said Rodolfo Cardenal, vice rector
                  of the Jesuit-run Jose Simeon Canas Central American University.

                  Speaking late Monday, Cardenal said that the university, where the priests
                  worked, might bring the case to the Interamerican Court of Justice or to a
                  Spanish court, such as the one that brought charges against former Chilean
                  dictator Augusto Pinochet.

                  Earlier Monday, Judge Elmer Chavarria rejected the national prosecutor's motion
                  to reopen the case, calling the motion "without legal foundation."

                  But he did not close the door to such a move. He said the prosecution should
                  "begin an investigation of the case" to seek new evidence before bringing it to the

                  The priests -- five from Spain and one from El Salvador -- were shot to death by
                  an army commando unit along with two university employees on Nov. 16, 1989,
                  during the country's 12-year civil war. They apparently were suspected of
                  sympathizing with leftist rebels.

                  Nine members of an anti-rebel commando force were accused. A jury absolved
                  seven of the suspects in 1991. Two others were convicted, but then freed under
                  an amnesty ordered by then-President Alfredo Cristiani in 1992 at the end of the

                  The Jesuit university had asked prosecutors to reopen the case to probe the
                  higher-ranking officers and Cristiani, who they said must have known about or
                  could have blocked the killings.

                  Prosecutors at first refused to try to reopen the case, saying the amnesty law
                  made it moot. But the supreme court later said lower-ranking judges would have
                  the authority to decide if the case should be reopened.

                  Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.