Court rules against defendants on application of terrorism law
In the initial hearing today, the judge ruled against defense requests for a ruling that the anti-Terrorism law did not apply. 13 of the 14 persons arrested in the protests around Suchitoto will be held in preventive detention (in prison) under the anti-Terrorism law prior to their actual trial. The judge ruled that there was sufficient evidence of violations of the anti-terrorism law for the specialized court to continue to have jurisdiction.
Salvador arrests cause concern here
Social activists have Madison ties
By Mary Yeater Rathbun
The Capital Times, July 6, 2007, page C10
Lorena Araujo, a Salvadoran social activist who has visited Madison several times over the past 20 years, was arrested Monday in El Salvador and charged Wednesday with acts of terrorism.
Her arrest, along with three other leaders of the Association for the Development of El Salvador (CRIPDES), and the charges that have followed have caused fear among long-term participants in the Madison-Arcatao Sister City Project. CRIPDES has been the project's partner organization in El Salvador since 1986.
"It is quite frightening to see the extremes they went to to orchestrate these seemingly preplanned arrests," Ian Davies, an Edgewood College professor of Spanish who takes students to El Salvador, said Thursday.
The arrests took place on a remote rural highway before the four Salvadoran activists got to a protest against the privatization of water, according to a Thursday e-mail from an El Salvador Solidarity listserv. President Elias Antonio Saca was visiting Suchitoto to inaugurate a public water system, according to Madison Arcatao Sister City spokeswoman Barbara Alvarado.
"We are seeing a very frightening response by the police to people who are grass-root organizers. It is part of a wider pattern of militancy in the country, a pattern of defensive measures by the monied elite, the old oligarchy, who see a need to close down the social activists," Davies said.
Alvarado is also concerned about people being arrested before they got to the forum, which she insists was to be a peaceful protest. The national police "severely repressed expression by ordinary people who were wanting to communicate their opinions on something that directly affects them," she said.
"Lorena is a personal friend of mine and my family and of many people in Madison. We are very afraid for her physical integrity," Alvarado said.
"Hundreds and hundreds of Madisonians have worked with Lorena and her colleagues at CRIPDES, ate with them, visited with them," longtime Madison-Arcatao project activist Marc Rosenthal said.
The Salvadoran government's invocation of anti-terrorism laws modeled on the USA Patriot Act also upsets Rosenthal. According to the Solidarity listserv, invocation of anti-terrorism laws means the cases have been taken out of provincial court and will pe tried in special tribunals created specifically for cases under those laws. Preliminary information indicates the public hearing of the case will be Saturday.
"First and foremost, I am concerned about our partners in El Salvador, but it would not surprise me if the Madison-Arcatao Sister City Project was labeled terrorist by our government," Rosenthal said.
"What we see in the heavy-handed criminalization of dissent is an issue social activists have been increasingly confronting in the last several years as we deal with the exact same issues around globalization as our Salvadoran partners are dealing with," he added.
Alvarado asks Madisonians to send faxes and e-mails to the president of El Salvador, the attorney general of the country and the chief justice of the Salvadoran Supreme Court, as well as to their own U.S. congressional delegation. Salvadoran addresses are available at www.madison.com/communities/mascp.
The question is why the charges were accepted.
Apparently the defense attorneys used video footage from the news, where you can actually see the people participating in the demonstration carrying sticks and throwing rocks. Bad idea. Really bad idea. This is going to become a difficult case because the demonstrators blocked the President's caravan, and therefore the Attorney General can claim that they had endangered the President (even if he was miles away, this is about the "intentions" of the demonstrators).
Solidarity organizations should take advantage of the official statements made by the human rights office in El Salvador (I think hunnapuh's blog had something on this), because the terrorist charges are excessive but unlike previous cases, when the judges decided to drop them, this time they might stick.