SAN SALVADOR – A Salvadoran court handed down maximum sentences to two minors accused of taking part in burning a bus with its passengers inside, an incident in which 17 people died, judiciary officials said Saturday.
“At the end of Friday afternoon, the juvenile court decreed maximum sentences for the youths, both suspected Mara 18 gang members charged with the aggravated homicide of 17 people,” a spokesperson for the Isidro Menendez Judicial Center, a court in San Salvador, said Saturday.
“Judge Lorena de Morales sentenced the 14-year-old adolescent nicknamed “El Guilita” to five years in prison, while “El Gargola,” 16, was given 15 years, according to a communique of that court.
On June 20, suspected Mara 18 members, including the two teenagers, set fire to a bus with its passengers inside in the Mejicanos district of the Salvadoran capital. As a result, 17 people died.
The note said that the purported gang members stopped the bus and drenched everyone inside with gasoline, including an 18-month-old baby; “they set fire to them and shot those who tried to escape.”
The judicial spokesperson told EFE that the 16-year-old was accused of “shooting” at the passengers, while the boy of 14 helped set the fire, apparently “committing the deed as part of an initiation ritual” to join the gang.
“The parents of the 16-year-old minor are involved in the same crime, accused of possessing arms and drugs,” the statement said.
On the same day, other suspected gang members fired at another bus in the same neighborhood and killed three people.
These attacks shocked the nation and were considered by the Salvadoran president, Mauricio Funes, to be acts of “pure terrorism.”