RALEIGH, N.C. – An appeals court rejected an effort by a former Salvadoran colonel to halt his extradition on charges that he planned notorious killings during the country's civil war.
Spanish authorities want to prosecute Inocente Orlando Montano Morales in the 1989 killings of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador, where Montano served as vice minister for public security in the 1980s. Most of the priests were Spanish.
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Montano's request for a stay of extradition on Thursday, which means diplomats can proceed with sending him to face the charges in Spain.
Montano's lawyer didn't immediately respond to an email asking about any more appeals.
A federal judge approved his extradition in August, upholding a magistrate's prior decision. Montano then appealed to the 4th Circuit.
The court hasn't rejected that appeal outright, but a human rights lawyer who advocated for the charges said Thursday's ruling shows he's unlikely to win.
"He could be extradited while his appeal is pending," said Patty Blum, who advises the international justice group Guernica 37.
The State Department is expected to sign off on the extradition because its lawyers already reviewed the case before turning it over to federal prosecutors. The State Department didn't immediately return a message Friday.
Court documents say Montano was part of an inner circle of military officers accused of plotting to kill the priests, who were helping broker peace talks. The killings sparked international outrage.
Montano denied involvement, but the federal magistrate ruled that evidence presented by U.S. prosecutors showed he was involved in the plot.
Montano arrived in the U.S. in the early 2000s and worked at a candy factory near Boston. He was arrested in 2011 and sentenced to nearly two years for immigration fraud and perjury. He served that time in a federal prison in North Carolina, where his extradition case has subsequently unfolded.
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