U.S. ‘Appalled’ as El Salvador Frees 2 Slayers
Two former guardsmen, serving 30-year terms for the murders of two American agricultural advisers and a Salvadoran official, were freed under an amnesty law that is part of a Central American peace plan, a prison official said today.
The U.S. Embassy said it was “appalled” by the action and the United States plans to review a $9-million American aid program to improve El Salvador’s judiciary.
Vitelio Escobar, the official in charge of security at Mariona Prison, said that former national guardsmen Jose Dimas Valle and Santiago Gomez Gonzalez were freed Dec. 19 on orders from the judiciary. Their lawyer, Luis Arevalo Diaz, confirmed their release.
The two guardsmen were sentenced to 30 years imprisonment in February, 1986.
Both men were convicted for the murders of Michael P. Hammer, 39, of Potomac, Md., and Mark David Pearlman, 36, of Seattle, two advisers helping the government with a controversial land reform program, and Jose Rodolfo Viera, 39, head of the Salvadoran Agrarian Institute.
3 Slain in 1981
The three men were shot to death inside the coffee shop of the Hotel Sheraton in the Salvadoran capital, Jan. 3, 1981, by two gunmen.
In quick succession earlier this month, the 5th Penal Court approved a petition by Arevalo Diaz that the two men be freed on the ground that theirs was a political crime, while the Second Penal Appeals Court rejected an appeal from Atty. Gen. Roberto Giron Flores to block their release.
A peace plan signed in August by the presidents of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica aims to end the 8-year-old civil war here, a leftist guerrilla war in Guatemala and the U.S.-supported Contra war against Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.