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  • The family of Archibald Gardner Dunn blames the Liberation People

    The family of Archibald Gardner Dunn blames the Liberation People's Forces, of which Sanchez Ceren (C) was a leader, for his kidnapping. | Photo: Reuters

Published 11 July 2018

The family of then-South African Ambassador Archibald Gardner Dunn blames the Liberation People's Forces, of which Sanchez Ceren was a leader, for his 1979 kidnapping.

El Salvador's Supreme Court says President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a former guerrilla leader, must give evidence over the disappearance of a South African diplomat kidnapped in the run-up to the country's bloody civil war.

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The ruling came on July 10 after the family of then-South African Ambassador Archibald Gardner Dunn filed a lawsuit blaming ex-guerrilla group the Liberation People's Forces (FPL), of which Sanchez Ceren was a leader, for his kidnapping on Nov. 28, 1979. 

According to the lawsuit, the FPL never revealed Gardner Dunn's whereabouts even though a ransom of US$2 million was paid for his release. Gardner Dunn's family filed a habeas corpus request to the court to find out what happened to him, Reuters reports.

Salvadoran media reported in October 1980 that Gardner Dunn was executed by the FPL. The diplomat's family said in the lawsuit they had had no solid information on his fate.

The government rejected the ruling as a political attack: "The president did not belong to the leadership of the FPL that year, and was a labor leader for teachers. This ruling has the political aim of hurting the president's image," presidential spokesman Roberto Lorenzana said.

El Salvador's 1980-1992 civil war pitted the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) against the U.S.-backed Salvadoran army. The FMLN was formed from a merger of several dissident leftist groups, including the FPL.

The war killed some 75,000 people and left 8,000 missing.


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