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Spain sentences El Salvador ex-colonel to 133 years in jail for priests’ murder

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A former El Salvadoran colonel was sentenced to 133 years in prison on Friday for the murder of five Spanish Jesuits in 1989 during the Central American country’s civil war.

Inocente Orlando Montano Morales, 77, was found guilty by a Spanish court for the murders of the priests’ housekeeper, her 15-year-old daughter and a local Jesuit priest as well. The killings were one of the incidents in a decade-long civil war during which 75,000 people were killed and 8,000 went missing. Morales was deputy minister for public security. The five people killed were Father Ignacio Ellacuria, university rector, and Fathers Ignacio Martín-Baro, Juan Ramón Moreno, Amando López and Segundo Montes. Salvadoran Jesuit Father Joaquín López and Julia Elba Ramos, a housekeeper, and her teenage daughter Celina were the other victims. Morales saw the Jesuits as traitors and considered them to be associated with rebels from the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front.

The judges found Morales guilty of five counts of “murder of terrorist nature”, adding that as the killings were committed on orders of the state, making them what “is commonly known as terrorism implemented by the state”. The judges said the maximum prison term is 30 years—Morales has been given 26 years, eight months and one day for each murder.

Conan Castro, legal secretary of the presidency in El Salvador, was quoted by Reuters as saying, “There are other acts that still have to be judged.”

So far, 20 former El Salvadoran army officers have been indicted by the Spanish government for the killings.

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UN Working Group Determines Detention of Iranian Pastor is Arbitrary

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Iran – The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has released an opinion that the continued detention of Iranian church leader Yousef Nadarkhani is arbitrary. The opinion, which was adopted at the working group’s 89th session in November 2020 was made public last week. In the opinion the working group wrote: “Through much of his life, (Pastor Nadarkhani) has been the target of religious discrimination, for which he has been arrested, tried, and imprisoned on multiple occasions. The working group has indicated that Nadarkhani’s continued detention contravenes multiple articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has called upon Iran to take the steps “necessary to remedy this situation of Mr. Nadarkhani without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms.”

Pastor Nadarkhani was initially arrested in May 2016, along with four other Christians during a series of raids on Christian homes. In July 2017 the four men were found guilty and sentenced to ten years in prison on charges of acting against national security by promoting Zionist Christianity. The men were released on bail but were re-arrested in a series of raids in July 2018 after being informed that their sentences had been upheld. They were taken to Evin prison in Tehran, to serve out their sentences. Evin prison is well known for its harsh treatment of prisoners, poor living conditions, and the use torture on inmates has been reported by many have been formerly incarcerated there. An appeal by Pastor Nadarkhani and a fellow Christian, Deacon Saheb Fadaie saw the court rule in favor of a reduction in their sentences to six years each (down from the initial ten year sentence handed down in 2017).

An Iranian church official has said: “this is an answer to prayer,” and called on the international community and the new U.S. administration, in particular, to make religious freedoms issues a priority as they resumed negotiations with Iran. This comes in the face of the situation in Iran, which continues to be highly concerning, as many Christians and other religious minorities continue to be imprisoned on arbitrary and spurious charges similar to those of pastor Nadarkhani.
Sources:persecution

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400 escape, 25 killed in riots after Haiti prison breakout

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Haitian authorities announced Friday that more than 400 inmates escaped and 25 people died in a prison breakout, making it the country’s largest and deadliest one in a decade, with the prison director and a powerful gang leader among those killed.

Some believe Thursday’s jailbreak at the Croix-des-Bouquets Civil Prison in northeast Port-au-Prince was to free gang leader Arnel Joseph, who had been Haiti’s most wanted fugitive until his 2019 arrest on charges including rape, kidnapping and murder.

Joseph was riding on a motorcycle through the Artibonite area in the town of L’Est’re on Friday a day after his escape when he was spotted at a checkpoint, police spokesman Gary Desrosiers told The Associated Press. He said Joseph pulled out a gun and died in an exchange of gunfire with police.

Joseph ruled Village de Dieu, or Village of God, a shantytown in downtown Port-au-Prince, and other communities, including some in Artibonite, which is Haiti’s largest department.

Authorities have not yet provided much details on the breakout except to say that 60 inmates have been recaptured and the investigation is ongoing. State Secretary Frantz Exantus said authorities have created several commissions to investigate who organized the breakout and why. Among those killed was the prison director, identified as Paul Joseph Hector.

Residents who declined to be identified because they feared for their life told the AP that they saw gunmen shoot at prison guards on Thursday before inmates escaped from the Croix-des-Bouquets penitentiary.

The prison is known for a 2014 breakout in which more than 300 of the 899 inmates being held there at the time escaped. Some believed that attack was designed to free Clifford Brandt, the son of a prominent businessman, who had been imprisoned since 2012 for allegedly kidnapping the adult children of a rival businessman. Brandt was captured two days later near the Dominican Republic border.

After the 2014 breakout, officials said they were taking steps to up security at the prison that Canada built in 2012, including installing security cameras and placing ankle monitors on the most dangerous prisoners. It wasn’t immediately clear if any of those measures were taken. At the time of Thursday’s breakout, the prison held 1,542 inmates, nearly twice its capacity.

Haiti’s largest prison breakout in recent history occurred after the devastating 2010 earthquake in which more than 4,200 inmates fled the notorious National Penitentiary in downtown Port-au-Prince.

President Jovenel Mose tweeted on Friday that he condemned the most recent jailbreak and asked people to remain calm. He added that Haiti’s National Police ?is instructed to take all measures to bring the situation under control.”

Meanwhile, Helen La Lime, Haiti’s special representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, said in a statement that she was deeply concerned with the mutiny and prison escape.

“I encourage the police to speed up investigations on the circumstances surrounding this incident, redouble its efforts to re-apprehend the escapees, and strengthen security around prisons throughout the country,” she said.

“This prison break further highlights the problem of prolonged preventive detention and prison overcrowding which remains matter of concern that must be urgently addressed by Haitian authorities.”

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UN Working Group Determines Detention of Iranian Pastor is Arbitrary

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