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Ex-Salvadoran colonel gets US prison sentence

AP / August 27, 2013

BOSTON (AP) — A former Salvadoran military colonel who’s facing war crimes accusations in Spain was sentenced Tuesday to 21 months in prison on U.S. immigration charges.

Inocente Orlando Montano had pleaded guilty to immigration fraud and perjury counts following his 2011 arrest in Massachusetts.

The 70-year-old was once El Salvador’s vice minister of public security, but had been living in a Boston suburb for about a decade and making $14 an hour in a candy factory.

A United Nations commission previously named him a participant in a meeting to plot the slaying of a priest suspected of supporting rebels. That meeting allegedly led to the 1989 slayings of six priests and two other people in El Salvador.
Montano has denied involvement in the killings, but Spanish authorities indicted him in 2011 in connection with the so-called Jesuit massacre.

After Tuesday’s sentencing, Montano said through a Spanish translator that he was satisfied with the sentence and hadn’t decided if he would appeal. His penalty also includes a year of supervised release.

Attorney Carolyn Patty Blum, whose organization is involved in seeking Montano’s prosecution in Spain, said it was ‘‘a huge step forward to be incarcerating him for anything.’’
Prosecutors had asked for a prison sentence of more than four years, saying Montano emigrated to the U.S. in part to avoid potential prosecution for the Jesuit massacre in El Salvador. His attorney asked for probation, saying Montano had no fear of prosecution in El Salvador because of an amnesty law.

During the three-day sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock heard evidence implicating Montano in human rights violations.

‘‘This much seems clear, that there were human rights violations by troops under Mr. Montano’s command and he took no action,’’ Woodlock said.

But the judge also said before announcing Montano’s penalty that the immigration case wasn’t a ‘‘springboard’’ for deciding if the defendant was guilty of human rights violations, even if evidence was significant.

Woodlock had asked assistant U.S. attorney John Capin on Monday about the status of Spain’s request to extradite Montano so he had the information before sentencing the defendant.

Government officials previously have declined to comment on the extradition request except to say they are aware that Montano faces criminal charges in Spain. Capin said in court Tuesday that he couldn’t provide any information, but consented to speaking with the judge privately.

When the judge returned to the bench, he said the U.S. government hadn’t taken formal action regarding the extradition request.

Stanford University professor Terry Lynn Karl, an expert in Latin American politics who had testified for the government, later said she was pleased with the sentence because it would give the U.S. time to extradite Montano to Spain.

The judge ordered Montano to report to prison on Oct. 11.

‘‘If, under these circumstances, you disappear, you'll be found,’’ Woodlock told him.

© Copyright 2013 Globe Newspaper Company.

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