Ex-Salvadoran military leader sentencing continues

AP News
Posted: Aug 26, 2013 7:14 PM

BOSTON (AP) — A federal judge presiding over the immigration case of a former Salvadoran military colonel said Monday he wants to know more about Spain's request to try him on war crimes before handing down a sentence.

Inocente Orlando Montano pleaded guilty to three counts of immigration fraud and three counts of perjury after his 2011 arrest in Boston. The 70-year-old is among 20 people Spanish authorities indicted separately that same year in connection with what's called the Jesuit massacre.

A United Nations commission has alleged Montano participated in a meeting to plot the slaying of a priest suspected of supporting rebels, resulting in the 1989 deaths of six priests and two other people during El Salvador's civil war. Montano, once his country's vice minister of public security, has denied involvement.

U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock told Assistant U.S. Attorney John Capin during Monday's hearing that he wanted to know what U.S. officials intend to do about Spain's extradition request. He said he was concerned about the way any sentence in the immigration case would "dovetail" with the extradition process, if there was one.

Capin told the judge he wasn't sure what he'd be permitted to divulge that information but Woodlock said would be expecting an answer from the prosecutor.

Stanford University professor Terry Lynn Karl, an expert in Latin American politics, testified Monday during Montano's sentencing hearing that she was "quite convinced" he knew of human rights abuses committed by his troops.

But through a Spanish translator, retired El Salvador military general Mauricio Ernesto Vargas testified there's no evidence such abuses happened.

The government has asked for a prison sentence of more than four years for Montano, saying he came to the U.S. in part to avoid possible prosecution for the massacre in El Salvador.

Montano's lawyer, Oscar Cruz Jr., has appealed for a five-year probation term. He claims his client came to the U.S. in 2001 because of financial hardships and problems after earthquakes, and an amnesty law protected Montano against prosecution at home.

Carolyn Patty Blum, a lawyer from an organization involved in seeking Montano's prosecution in Spain, said Monday she's hopeful something will come out in court about U.S. officials' intentions when it comes to the extradition request.

Montano declined comment following Monday's proceeding, which is scheduled to continue Tuesday.