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News :: Globalization : Human Rights : International
CISPES Declares Its Solidarity with the Salvadoran Political Prisoners
14 Aug 2007
On July 30th, members of the national Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) organized a protest in front of the Salvadorean Consulate in Boston to demand the immediate release of 13 community leaders who were arrested, preemptively, before a national protest against water privatization in El Salvador.

See video of the protest:
According to CISPES web site:

"The protestors who were arrested on July 2 in Suchitoto, El Salvador are now being tried under the new “anti-terrorism” law, a law passed with full praise from the United States government. This draconian law defines different forms of public protest as terrorism and sentences offenders up to 60 years in prison for such crimes as occupying a public building. For the second time this year, the law is now being used against the social movement in El Salvador, criminalizing acts that do not in any way constitute terrorism! Five of the prisoners on trial have now been temporarily released; the other 9 remain in “preventative detention” for a term of 3 months while the prosecution builds their terrorism case against all 13."

The protest in El Salvador--which was spurred by the government's decision to privatize public water services as outline under the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)--was also brutally repressed by the police, leaving several wounded.

Human Rights Ombudsman, Oscar Luna, has demanded that the police involved in the brutal repression of political prisoners be punished. One of the prisoners whose abuse has been highlighted is Gertrudis Valladares Aquino; he was brutally beaten by the riot police during and after his arrest and he was hospitalized for seven days because of the beating. Luna has also called for an investigation into the reports by some of the prisoners that police officers tortured them by threatening to throw them into the Suchitlan Lake while the police were transporting the arrested protestors in helicopter from Suchitoto to a nearby police station.

Human Rights Watch has condemned the use of terrorism against the community leaders:

"Although the international community has not agreed on a precise definition of terrorism, it is widely understood that the term applies only to the most serious crimes of political violence, directed at instilling fear in the population in order to achieve a political goal... El Salvador’s use of terrorism charges for less serious crimes allegedly committed during a political protest is inappropriate and represents a misuse of counterterrorism legislation... The counterterrorism law contains other overbroad provisions as well. Besides criminalizing incitement of terrorism, Article 8 of the law imposes a sentence of five to 10 years on anyone who publicly justifies terrorism..."

Human Rights Watch called on the Salvadoran legislature to amend its counterterrorism law to ensure that it is only applicable to certain very dangerous acts that are committed with the requisite intent and could thus be reasonably deemed acts of terrorism. In addition, the legislature should amend or repeal several provisions of the law, including articles 5, 6 and 8, which are vague and overbroad, and which prescribe sentences that are disproportionate to many of the crimes they encompass.
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