SAN SALVADOR – A Salvadoran court has granted pre-trial release to a journalist and three other people who were among 13 arrested on terrorism charges during a protest against far-right President Tony Saca.
Judiciary spokesman José Luis Funes said July 20 that María Haydee Chicas and three other people arrested during a protest in the city of Suchitoto benefited from the ruling.
He added that Chicas, Sandra Isabel Guatemala, Beatriz Eugenia Nuila and José Ever Fuentes must appear before the courts every two weeks and are prohibited from changing their place of residence or leaving the country until the trial is concluded.
Another nine people detained during the protest will remain behind bars.
Chicas, a journalist in her final year of studies at the University of El Salvador, was arrested 18 days ago along with the other defendants in Suchitoto, north of San Salvador, during clashes involving campesinos and the police.
The protest erupted in response to the arrival in Suchitoto of President Saca, who chose that city as the venue for his new “decentralization” policy, which the activists suspected was aimed at privatization of the potable water service.
Chicas is the press secretary for the Association of Rural Communities for the Development of El Salvador, an organization that had convened a forum in that city that was attended by campesinos who participated in the protest.
The detention of Chicas brought condemnation from the Salvadoran reporters’ guild and the country’s biggest journalism school, as well as from Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.
On July 18, the Committee of Relatives of Political Prisoners held a march and launched a hunger strike to demand the release of all 13 of the people arrested in Suchitoto.
Under El Salvador’s new anti-terrorism law, the Suchitoto defendants could receive a sentence of 40 to 70 years in prison.