Release Sought for Killer of Nuns

Saturday, September 2nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — El Salvador's attorney general says he will fight for the release of one of two former soldiers still imprisoned for the 1980 slaying of four U.S. religious workers, local media reported Saturday.

Attorney General Miguel Cardoza said Francisco Orlando Contreras has changed and that he would push to have him released, local media reported Saturday. The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the former soldier's petition because it believed he had not been rehabilitated.

A former member of the country's National Guard, Contreras was one of five men sentenced to 30 years in prison in 1984 for the slayings of nuns Ita Ford, Maura Clarke and Dorothy Kazel, and layworker Jean Donovan during the country's civil war.

The women had been detained at a highway checkpoint in December 1980 while headed to the capital from the nearby international airport. Their bullet-riddled bodies were found a day later. They apparently had been raped.

Three of the men were freed in 1998 for good behavior under a law that reduced some sentences to ease prison overcrowding. Contreras and Carlos Joaquin Contreras Palacios were kept in prison because they had participated in a prison uprising.

Families of the victims said they believe the women were targeted because officials suspected they sympathized with leftist guerrillas during the war.