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Ex-Salvadoran military colonel’s sentencing begins

BOSTON — A federal judge weighing punishment for a former Salvadoran military leader on immigration charges heard testimony Thursday about allegations the defendant committed war crimes before coming to the United States.

Inocente Orlando Montano, El Salvador’s former vice minister of public security, is hoping for a probation sentence after pleading guilty to lying on US immigration forms.

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US authorities arrested the 70-year-old in 2011 after he spent about a decade living in a Boston suburb and earning $14 an hour in a candy factory. They seek a sentence of more than four years in prison.

During testimony, Stanford University professor Terry Lynn Karl defended her report that said Montano was part of a conspiracy with other high-ranking military officials to plot what turned into an incident known as the Jesuit Massacre.

In 1993, a United Nations commission named Montano as a participant in a meeting to plot the slaying of priests suspected of supporting leftist rebels, which allegedly led to the deaths of six priests, their cook, and her teenage daughter at a Jesuit university.

Montano is among 20 people that authorities in Spain indicted in 2011 in connection with the 1989 slayings during El Salvador’s civil war. He has denied involvement, but prosecutors in the immigration case have alleged Montano emigrated in part to avoid possible prosecution for the massacre.

The defense has said that an amnesty law in El Salvador protected Montano from prosecution there, and he emigrated in 2001 because of financial hardships and problems after earthquakes.

US District Judge Douglas Woodlock said Thursday that his main concern was not to determine if Montano was involved in human rights violations, but to figure out if the defendant was concerned about potential prosecution for such crimes when he came to the United States.

Montano’s sentencing on three counts of immigration fraud and three counts of perjury is scheduled to continue Monday, when retired Salvadoran general Mauricio Ernesto Vargas is expected to testify as a defense witness.

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