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San Francisco Chronicle: “Top Trump lawyer urges extradition of ex-Salvadoran official”

U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco has urged the Supreme Court to clear the final hurdle to the extradition of former Salvadoran colonel Inocente Orlando Montano to Spain, where he faces charges of murder and terrorism for the killing of six jesuit priests and their two employees in 1989 at the University of Central America. In February 2016, after reviewing the evidence against Montano –who was Deputy Minister for Public Security during the Salvadoran civil war– U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly Swank certified his extradition; and in August 2017, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle rejected the petition for habeas corpus filed by Montano’s legal team.

According to the following article published at San Francisco Chronicle, Montano’s extradition could be imminent, as the State Department, which has final say over extraditions, “has already signed a warrant allowing authorities to send Montano to Spain if the Supreme Court declines to step in“. Montano would be the highest-ranking official in recent U.S. history to be extradited for human rights violations.

Image: TRIAL International

Guernica37’s co-founder and co-director, Almudena Bernabeu, leads the legal team pursuing justice for the victims before the Spanish National Court. Five of the jesuits were Spanish nationals when the crime took place, a factor that provided the necessary jurisdictional basis to Spanish courts to start investigations and prosecute the crime.

Top Trump lawyer urges extradition of ex-Salvadoran official

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Trump administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer argued Wednesday that extraditing a former high-ranking Salvadoran official to Spain for trial on 30-year-old war crimes would promote good relations with an important ally against terrorism.

U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco urged the high court to clear the final hurdle to sending Inocente Orlando Montano Morales to Spain on charges that he helped plot the 1989 killings of six Jesuit priests, five of whom were Spanish. The former colonel in El Salvador’s armed forces served as vice minister for public security in 1980s during the Central American country’s civil war.

Francisco said lower courts have thoroughly considered and rejected Montano’s arguments against extradition, including questions about evidence and objections to how Spanish “terrorist murder” charges against him were weighed by U.S. courts.

“Spain is an important partner of the United States in terrorism and other cases of national importance, and timely compliance with its extradition requests advances the United States’ foreign policy and law enforcement interests,” Francisco wrote. He noted that the battle over extradition has stretched 2 ½ years.

The State Department, which has final say over extraditions, has already signed a warrant allowing authorities to send Montano to Spain if the Supreme Court declines to step in, Montano’s attorney told the court last month. It’s not clear when the court will act on Montano’s request for an emergency stay.

Court documents say Montano was among an inner circle of military officers accused of plotting to kill the priests, who were helping broker peace talks. The killings sparked international outrage.

Montano denied involvement in the killings, but a federal magistrate judge in North Carolina ruled in 2016 that evidence presented by U.S. prosecutors showed he took part in the plot. Another federal judge subsequently agreed with the extradition, and a federal appeals court refused to block it.

Montano’s lawyer, James Todd, argued in his Supreme Court appeal that lower courts didn’t look closely enough at flaws in evidence used by Spanish authorities. Another question raised by Todd was whether the five priests maintained their Spanish citizenship.

Todd has also cited the precarious health of Montano, a 76-year-old cancer survivor.

“He faces extradition to a country totally foreign to him, because he has never set foot in Spain, whose jurisdictional over-reach might result in his death,” Todd wrote in a letter to the State Department.

Montano arrived in the U.S. in the early 2000s and worked at a candy factory near Boston. He was arrested in 2011 and sentenced to nearly two years for immigration fraud and perjury. He served that time in a federal prison in North Carolina, where his extradition case subsequently unfolded.

This article, by Jonathan Drew, was published on 8th November 2017 at San Francisco Chronicle.

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