Spain has asked El Salvador to clarify the legal status of nine former military officers indicted in Madrid over the slayings of six Jesuit priests during the Central American country's 1980-1992 civil war, a court official said Thursday.
El Salvador's Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to order the arrest of the nine, saying it has not received a formal extradition request from Spain. The men surrendered in El Salvador voluntarily this month, but are not under arrest.
The Salvadoran tribunal said it would consider an extradition request if one were received. But at present, all that is pending against the men in El Salvador is an Interpol request that they be located, which has already been accomplished.
The Spanish court official said Judge Eloy Velasco has sent El Salvador a document seeking clarification of the suspects' status.
Velasco indicted the nine in May and issued arrest warrants through Interpol, the official said. Such warrants are for the purpose of eventual extradition for trial, in this case to Madrid, .
Spain is acting under observance of the principle of universal jurisdiction. This holds that some crimes are so egregious they can be prosecuted in countries other than those where they allegedly occurred.
The Spanish court official said Spain cannot issue a formal extradition request to El Salvador for the nine suspects because it has not been informed if they are under arrest.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with court rules.
Five of the six slain priests were Spaniards, and the sixth was Salvadoran. Two women working for them were also killed in the massacre on Nov. 16, 1989 by Salvadoran soldiers during a leftist rebel offensive.
In the United States, another ex-Salvadoran military officer charged in the case was freed on bail Wednesday while facing an immigration charge in Boston.