PANAMA CITY (Reuters) -- Human remains exhumed near Panama City
may be those of a Colombian priest detained by the army almost 30 years
ago, Panamanian officials said on Thursday.
The remains, found during excavations ordered by the Public Prosecutor's
Office at a former military base 18 miles (30 km) east of the capital, are
thought to be those of the Rev. Hector Gallego, an activist arrested by
members of the Panamanian Defense Forces in June 1971.
"It is presumed that the remains are those of Father Gallego," Deputy Public
Prosecutor Carlos Herrera said, adding the prosecutor's office was awaiting
the results of forensic tests.
Gallego's unsolved disappearance was the most prominent case of human
rights abuse during Panama's 21-year military rule, brought to an end by the
1989 U.S. invasion to topple military strongman Gen. Manuel Noriega.
The body had injuries consistent with those Gallego was believed to have
received during detention, Carlos Lee, a leading prosecution lawyer
connected to the case, told Reuters.
"The remains are those of a man who had been buried for more than 20
years," Lee said, adding the body had a fractured cranium and showed signs
of medical attention.
Lee, who represented the Catholic Church at the 1993 trial of three former
security force members charged with Gallego's murder, confirmed that
excavations at the Tocumen military base were carried out following a tip.
The informant could not be identified for security reasons, Lee said. He
denied the information came from the two men convicted of Gallego's
murder, Melbourne Walker and Nivaldo Madrinan.
Copyright 1999 Reuters