Appeals Judge Says Terrorism Case Should Go Forward, Provisionally Releases Four Prisoners

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[note: please respond to the CISPES/Sister Cities Action Alert, Demand the Immediate Release of Political Prisoners in El Salvador! and participate in the call-in day targeting the US State Department on July 30. Also, call your Congressional Rep to have them sign on to the Dear Colleague letter related to the recent repression in El Salvador. You can download that letter here ]

Appeals Judge Says Terrorism Case Should Go Forward, Provisionally Releases Four Prisoners

After hours of deliberation on Thursday, July 19, a judge in the Specialized Tribunals decided to release four of the Suchitoto political prisoners. The four prisoners released on Monday were Beatriz Eugenia Nuila, Haydee Chicas, Sandra Guatemala and Ever Fuentes. The Committee of Families of Political Prisoners welcomed them in their Liberation Camp, a permanent gathering of families and supporters in the central plaza of San Salvador. The families, together with the social organizations and the FMLN have committed to maintaining the gathering of public protest until the rest of the 9 political prisoners are released. While the provisional release on bail was cause for immediate celebration, the four will still face the terrorism charges with the other prisoners in two months.

Meanwhile, the new Human Rights Ombudsman, Oscar Luna, has demandedthat the police involved in the brutal repression of politicalprisoners be punished. One of the prisoners whose abuse has beenhighlighted is Gertrudis Valladares Aquino; he was brutally beaten bythe riot police during and after his arrest and he was hospitalized forseven days because of the beating. Luna has also called for aninvestigation into the reports by some of the prisoners that policeofficers tortured them by threatening to throw them into the SuchitlanLake while the police were transporting the arrested protestors inhelicopter from Suchitoto to a nearby police station. The FMLNleadership has applauded Lunas report and used it to call for thecreation of a special legislative commission to investigate the entireprocess.

Criminalizing Protest the Legal Way: Reforms to Penal Code

Under pressure both nationally and internationally, President Saca andhis cabinet have been making contradictory and diluted statements aboutthe Anti-Terrorism charges against the 13 Suchitoto prisoners. Sacahas made vague statements, saying it is important to make a distinctionbetween public disorder and acts of terrorism, although AttorneyGeneral Garrid Safie is maintaining his position that the terrorismcharges still apply.

However, Saca is working to ensure that even if the terrorism chargesare thrown out the Suchitoto prisoners and others like them will stillspend significant time in jail. Saca has proposed that the LegislativeAssembly approve a series of reforms to the Penal Code. He wants thejail time for public disorder and a newly created crime of attemptsagainst public peace to be punishable with 3-10 year imprisonment.Given that protest actions fall directly under the definitions of thesetwo crimes, social movement activists see this move as a furtherattempt to legalize the criminalization of protest. For example,under these reforms any two or more people blocking a road in adangerous manner can go to prison for 3-5 years, and it is written sothat anyone who gathers in front of a public hospital in protest couldgo to jail for up to ten years. This second reform to the Penal Codemay be in response to the increasing mobilizing against the steps Sacais taking towards the privatization of both water and public healthcare. Security Minister Rene Figueroa was most telling in his commentswhen he said, our interest is that those that are rebellious bepunished; they must be punished, either with the Anti-terrorism law orunder regular criminal law.

Electrical workers union leader murdered

Miguel Angel Vasquez Argueta, finance secretary of the historicelectrical workers union (STSEL, Union of Workers in the ElectricalSector) was murdered on Wednesday, July 18. Union members as well asthe broader social movement gathered to express condolences to hisfamily as well as to fellow STSEL members. The climate of repressiontowards the social movement immediately provoked fear that this couldbe a politically motivated murder. However, with no immediate evidencethe union and Vasquezs family are simply calling for a fullinvestigation. For more information, see the CEAL report here .

Water workers union and social movement continue fight against privatization

The fight against water privatization continues in El Salvador, despitethe governments protest. For a full article about the privatizationstruggle, see the NACLA article here .

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