This Monday, the last of the 11 unjustly incarcerated young men were freed. The court of appeals gave a surprise decision late last week, reversing the original sentence of four years in prison and dismissing the case.
The 11, from poor urban and marginalized communities in the center of San Salvador, and members and participants of the Salvadoran social movement organization the MPR-12, also included 2 Sister Cities university scholarship recipients, Geovanni and Emerson. The case goes back to December 2012, when local police carried out a gang raid, terrorizing the communities in the middle of the night and rounding up innocent young men along with the guilty. It dragged on for more than a year as everyone involved let down their guards, until they were surprisingly sentenced to 4 years in prison on March 26, 2014 for "illicit organization."
Upon being released, Emerson said that his and the other young men´s mothers were “super moms” for all the work they did in the fight to have their sons released from prison. They met every week, in the community, with the MPR-12, meeting with lawyers, going to the courts and demanding answers, going to the prison and demanding to be able to see their sons, for a gut wrenching 4 months.
Thanks to the coordination of the MPR-12, Sister Cities, SHARE, the FMLN, and international solidarity folks who have been paying attention since the beginning of the case, there was enough pressure generated that the appeal decision was handed down much faster than anyone anticipated.
The process has been long and fraught with political tension, and the fight against injustice isn´t over. Just this Monday, when one of the young men who had been freed Friday attempted to leave his community to present when Geovanni and Emerson were released, he was harassed by a local policeman who recognized him as someone recently released from prison. Later when Sister Cities staff was leaving the community after welcoming the young men home, we witnessed a patrol pick up car with 6 – 8 police officers watching the entrance to the community. This surveillance, combined with several unusual aspects in the handling of the case, leads many in the social movement, the FMLN, and the community to suspect specific targeting of these young men.