Crime & Justice

El Salvador prosecutes 492 leaders of the Mara Salvatrucha for 37,000 crimes

San Salvador, Feb 8 (EFE).- A court in El Salvador held a virtual mass hearing on Thursday against 492 gang leaders of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13), including high-ranking leaders, for more than 37,000 crimes.

President Nayib Bukele’s prison reforms, passed by Congress, allowed for mass criminal trials without the need to individualize the responsibility of each defendant.

In Thursday’s hearing, there were no prisoners in the courtroom but only screens showing inmates from different prisons, such as the Terrorism Confinement Center.

Deputy Prosecutor against Organized Crime, Max Muñoz, stated that among the defendants are 24 high-ranking leaders, 253 gang leaders and 166 cell leaders.

“This organization is accused of more than 500 homicides, disappearances, extortion, arms trafficking, human trafficking, and rebellion for having taken up arms to control part of the territory of our republic, intimidate the community, collect taxes, exercise their own justice and being part of an armed group,” Muñoz added in a video released by the Prosecutor’s General Office.

Muñoz said there are 37,402 charges of crimes committed between 2012 and 2022.

The Prosecutor’s Office did not confirm whether all of the gang members prosecuted on Thursday were arrested under the state of emergency or if they were gang members already in prison.

MS13 is the largest gang in El Salvador, ahead of the Sureños and Revolucionarios del barrio 18, and has influence outside El Salvador in countries like the United States.

Under the state of emergency, which suspends constitutional guarantees, authorities have captured more than 76,000 alleged gang members and collaborators. Human rights organizations have registered over 6,000 complaints of abuses and 220 deaths of detainees inside prisons. EFE

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