San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Salvadoran Ex-Congressman Gets 29 Years in U.S. Prison

WASHINGTON, D.C. (EFE) — Former Salvadoran legislator William Eliu Martínez on Wednesday was sentenced to 29 years in prison for drug trafficking in a U.S. court here. Martínez had been found guilty on June 27.


The former lawmaker, a member of El Salvador’s now-defunct National Action Party, claimed that he was kidnapped in Panama by U.S. anti-drug agents and transferred against his will to Washington at the end of 2003 to be put on trial.


The U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement that Martínez’s arrest had been carried out by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents with the cooperation of Central American authorities.


U.S. prosecutors said that Martínez had shipped “tons of cocaine” to this country since 1998 through a drug trafficking organization headed by Guatemalan fugitive Otto Herrera. They also said that in El Salvador, Martínez bought speedboats, rented coastal properties and recruited accomplices for his illegal activities.


U.S. investigators and prosecutors acknowledged Wednesday that the Salvadoran government had provided them with “strong support” in the case. Since his arrest, the accused always has maintained his innocence, saying that he never knew that Herrera, with whom he had other business dealings, had links with the illegal drug trade.


A former employee of Martínez, Sabas Arias, testified during last year’s trial that he himself had participated with the defendant in smuggling drugs by sea off the Salvadoran coast.


Arias, who got U.S. prosecutors to drop charges against him in exchange for his testimony incriminating Martínez, was subsequently sentenced in his native El Salvador to four years in prison.


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