3 Salvadoran soldiers who killed U.S. nuns are freed on parole

July 22, 1998|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- Sparking new controversy in one of the most publicized cases in the prolonged, costly U.S. involvement in Central America's civil wars, Salvadoran authorities yesterday authorized the parole of three of the five soldiers convicted of killing four American religious women in 1980.

Reports that the ex-guardsmen were due for release renewed debate over the case in the United States and El Salvador. Prosecutors here tried and failed to keep the men in prison via appeals that lasted for three months.

Judicial employees, including the judge who presided in the case, personally delivered the parole orders to the prisons where the men are held.

The soldiers are being freed under a new penal code that allows the release of prisoners with good conduct after half their sentences. Two of the former guardsmen have caused trouble in prison and were ineligible for parole.

Among those to be freed yesterday were Daniel Canales -- who has said repeatedly that the soldiers were ordered by superiors to kill the women -- and Luis Colindres, the sub-sergeant who first confessed to the murders.

"We would be very disappointed by the release of these men," said U.S. State Department spokesman Lee McClenny. "The murders occurred almost 18 years ago, but time has not diminished the brutality of the acts or the trauma they have caused."

Ita Ford, Maura Clark and Dorothy Kazel -- all nuns -- and lay worker Jean Donovan were abducted as they left El Salvador's international airport on Dec. 2, 1980. They were "taken to an isolated place and killed with shots at short range," a Truth Commission, sponsored by the United Nations found in 1993.

Religious groups then were among the few organizations active in documenting human rights abuses; Clark and Ford worked in the poor, isolated province of Chalatenango, a war zone.

Pub Date: 7/22/98

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