Salvadoran accused in Jesuit deaths held in Mass.

AP News
Posted: Aug 23, 2011 7:56 PM
Salvadoran accused in Jesuit deaths held in Mass.

A former Salvadoran military official accused of playing a role in the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests was arrested Tuesday on a U.S. immigration charge.

Inocente Orlando Montano, who was among 20 Salvadorans indicted in Spain earlier this year in connection with the slayings during the Central American country's 12-year civil war, appeared in U.S. District Court for a bail hearing, a spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor's office in Boston said.

The spokeswoman, Christina DiIorio-Sterling, said Montano would be held overnight while arrangements were made for electronic monitoring upon his release, likely on Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors charge that Montano made false statements when he applied to the Department of Homeland Security for Temporary Protected Status in 2002. The designation allows some foreigners to seek temporary protection in the U.S. if they are unable to safely return to their own country because of an armed conflict or other reasons.

According to an affidavit filed by a special agent for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Montano answered no to several questions on his application, including whether he had ever served in a military, paramilitary or police unit and whether he had ever received any military or weapons training. The agent said Montano repeated the false statements in seven subsequent applications to maintain TPS status.

According to the affidavit, Montano served in the armed forces in El Salvador from 1963 to 1994, retiring as a colonel, and served as the country's vice minister for public safety in 1989. Among the evidence cited by the agent was a 1989 Associated Press photograph showing Montano and three other men in military uniform.

Montano had been living under his own name in Massachusetts for about 10 years and had held a job since 2003, according to his court-appointed attorney.

Prosecutors said during Montano's hearing in Boston that he was in poor health, having been treated for bladder cancer and other problems. They said Montano had been under investigation by ICE and the U.S. attorney's office for several months and had recently traveled to Virginia, raising concerns that he might try to flee to El Salvador through Mexico.

He later returned to Massachusetts, where he was arrested, DiIorio-Sterling said.

The 20 suspects were indicted in May by a Spanish judge on charges in the slayings of the six Jesuit priests and two other people. The judge issued international arrest warrants charging the men with terrorist killings and crimes against humanity.

The judge was acting under the principle of cross-border jurisdiction, which allows the prosecution of certain crimes, even if committed in another country.

Nine ex-soldiers and officials turned themselves over to an El Salvador court earlier this month. One of the suspects has died, and the others haven't been found.

Montano has previously denied involvement in the slayings. A United Nations commission in 1993 named Montano as a participant in a meeting to plot the assassination of a priest suspected of supporting leftist rebels.

The six priests, who worked at a Jesuit-run university, were found slain on Nov. 16, 1989, along with a housekeeper and her teenage daughter.