Trial starts in CentAm Parliament killings

Manuel Castillo and 8 others are charged in the slaying of three Salvadorans.

Guatemala City: A former Guatemalan congressman proclaimed his innocence on Thursday at the start of his trial on charges tying him to the killing of three members of Central America`s regional Parliament in 2007.

Manuel Castillo and eight others — including two former police detectives — are charged in the slaying of the three Salvadoran representatives to the Guatemala-based Central American Parliament, which is only an advisory body.

The charred bodies of the three Salvadorans and their driver were found along a rural road on February 19, 2007.

Guatemalan prosecutors say Castillo and another former congressman, Carlos Silva, planned the killings because the Salvadoran politicians had been urging that Silva be stripped of his legislator`s immunity so he could face money laundering charges. Silva fled to the US where was arrested for being in the country illegally.

Castillo told the court he had nothing to do with the killings.

"The police kidnapped them. The police killed them. So what am I doing here?" he said.

Three other police detectives arrested in the case were killed in prison under unresolved circumstances.

Guatemalan prosecutors plan to call more than 200 witnesses in the trial, which is expected to last up to two months.

Bureau Report