A group of 17 former soldiers wanted for the notorious 1989 killing of six Jesuit priests during El Salvador's civil war were released from their arrest warrants on Tuesday by the Supreme Court.
While 16 of the former soldiers are in Spain, which has sought their extradition, the accused also includes a former military Col. Inocente Orlando Montano, who is in the United States.
El Salvador had agreed to work toward the arrest of the accused soldiers, most of whom were Spanish, in 2016, however the Supreme Court backtracked on that decision Tuesday. They ruled the warrants void, saying that they had already been tried for murders. Only nine had ever been put to trial, and a mere two convicted.
Although two of the perpetrators were handed long sentences, they were released after only a few years in 1993 due to an amnesty law.
According to prosecutors, the soldiers murdered the priests in their homes at a university to silence their resistance to the U.S.-backed army that fought against the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front for over a decade and claimed over 75,000 lives.
Spanish priests Segundo Montes, Ignacio Ellacuria, Ignacio Martin Baro, Armando Lopez, Juan Ramon Moreno and Salvadoran priest Joaquin Lopez were killed in November 1989 along with two housekeepers who were home at the time, Elba and Celina Ramos. The soldiers ordered the victims to kneel in the garden outside the home, and then shot them in the head.
A U.S. congressional investigation determined that several of the soldiers involved in the killing of the priests had received direct training from the U.S. military.