Salvadoran charged in priest deaths denies perjury

Feb 16, 2012, 9:11 PM

AP Legal Affairs Writer

BOSTON (AP) – A former Salvadoran military officer accused of colluding in the 1989 slayings of six Jesuit priests pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of fraud and perjury for allegedly lying on U.S. immigration forms.

Inocente Orlando Montano, 69, was arraigned in U.S. District Court on eight charges related to the alleged immigration fraud.

Montano has lived near Boston for about a decade. He was among 20 Salvadorans separately indicted in Spain last year in connection with the slayings during El Salvador’s 12-year civil war.

Montano was arrested on the immigration charges last year. He signed a plea agreement with prosecutors but later informed the court that he would not plead guilty.

On Thursday, Montano was asked by U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Dein if he understood the charges against him.

“I understand them, but I am not in agreement with them,” he said through an interpreter.

Prosecutors allege that Montano made false statements when he applied for temporary protected status in 2002. The designation allows some foreigners to seek temporary protection in the United States if they are unable to safely return to their own country.

Montano allegedly answered “no” to questions about whether he had ever served in a military, paramilitary or police unit.

During a court hearing in December, Montano acknowledged through an interpreter that he had been an official in the Salvadoran armed forces for 30 years. He has previously denied involvement in the killings.

Montano, who is free on bail, said during an earlier court appearance that he had been working as a machine operator in a candy factory.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment on the status of an extradition request from Spain.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Salvadoran charged in priest deaths denies perjury