The Roman Catholic Church said Sunday that leftist guerrillas, not Salvadoran government troops as originally charged, executed four peasants in a village on the outskirts of San Salvador.
Father Modesto Lopez, reading a letter from the church human rights office Tutela Legal, said: “Some of those people who came to the hamlet of Tres Ceibas, although they identified themselves as members of the 1st Brigade, were recognized as members of the FMLN (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front).
“Tutela Legal’s investigation concludes that those responsible for the four murders were guerrillas, and we ask the FMLN high command to investigate the facts and punish those responsible.”
It said guerrilla units had passed through the area in May investigating people they thought were army informers. The guerrillas often shoot informers, usually taking responsibility as a warning to others.
Heavily armed men dressed in a combination of civilian clothes and military uniforms took away four men from their homes in the hamlet in the northern suburb of Apopa during the night of Oct. 14. Their bodies were found shot dead lying by a soccer field the next day.
Relatives blamed government troops, but the 1st Brigade commander, Col. Juan Orlando Zepeda, defended his men, saying the killings were carried out by guerrillas trying to discredit the military.
Human rights groups and unions sympathetic to the left dismissed his assertion, saying one of the victims was a former political prisoner released in an amnesty last November.
As the voice of a respected and influential church, Tutela Legal’s word carries much weight.