North Carolina is the unlikely scene of a court battle that could determine whether a former Salvadoran colonel is prosecuted for the slayings of Jesuit priests more than two decades ago during El Salvador's civil war.

An extradition hearing Wednesday for Inocente Orlando Montano Morales is the latest twist in a case dating to 1989. He is one of 20 former military members indicted in Spain, the native country of five of the priests.

But Montano — who is in custody in North Carolina — is currently the only former officer within the reach of Spanish prosecutors. Most of the others are covered by a Salvadoran amnesty law.

Montano has denied involvement in the killings. A defense lawyer didn't respond to an email seeking comment.