Thursday, February 21, 2008

Victory in El Salvador - Suchitoto 13 freed!

Suchitoto 13 and the Citizens not Terrorists Campaign Achieve Major Victory!

Yesterday afternoon we received the following bulletin from US - El Salvador Sister Cities. This is a stunning blow to the ARENA government's strategy of using the "war against terror" as a pretext for repression, and a momentous victory for human rights and political freedom in El Salvador. It is a testament to the strength and resolution of the Salvadoran popular movement, and to the effectiveness of North American solidarity when we work in partnership with our Salvadoran sisters and brothers. Thank you to all of you who played a role - by making phone calls, sending letters, faxes and E-mails, contributing money, and in many other ways.

Jon Falk
PICA Director


The Suchitoto 13 and the Citizens Not Terrorists campaign achieved a major victory today!

This is a preliminary report, and we will be working to put out a more in-depth and detailed update in the coming hours that should orient our ongoing work. But here is the fresh info:

This February 19th at an initial hearing scheduled in Suchitoto under the new accusations of "Public Disorder" and "Aggravated Damages," the judge dropped all charges and set the 14 defendants free!

According to preliminary reports, the Attorney General's office neglected to present official accusations and sufficient evidence, and district attorneys were not present at the hearing on time. The Judge then decided to waive the charges, and decree "definitive liberty" for the defendants.

This hearing was scheduled after Special (terrorism) Tribunal Judge Ana Lucila Fuentes de Paz recused herself of February 11th and declared the Special Tribunal incompetent to hear the case, as the building was surrounded by hundreds of community members who had marched from the city of Suchitoto over the previous 3 days. (There is more information, photos and video of the march here.) Judge Fuentes de Paz's resolution sent the case back to the conventional court system in Suchitoto, and the local Judge scheduled the initial hearing.

US - El Salvador Sister Cities member, Meredith DeFrancesco, was inside the courthouse this morning as an accredited journalist. She describes the scene at the courthouse:

"The building was surrounded with people from the communities holding candles and photos of the 14 defendants. There was a dark and tense moment inside the courthouse as the Judge called each one of the defendants by name, and they each stood awaiting the resolution. When the Judge said that all charges were being dropped, the tense moment collapsed and the whole room spontaneously erupted. Another large group of people from organizations and rural communities was gathered in the park in Suchitoto, celebrating the verdict."

This is a major victory for the Suchitoto 13, for the CRIPDES communities and national organization, for the Salvadoran social movement, and international solidarity. Rosa Valle, Vice-President of CRIPDES told us that:

"This is proof that our organizing work gets results and has great power. The Government responded to our organizing with repression, and now they must recognize their mistake, as they see communities and leaders around the world uniting their voices with the strength of the Salvadoran people to call for justice, dignity, and our own human rights."

Thank you for all your work and continued attention, support, and action that has been so important over the last 7 months. Please stay tuned for a more in-depth report in the coming hours that will orient our continuing work and strategy to stand with our brothers and sisters in El Salvador to defend human rights!

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