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Salvadoran Police Arrest Sister of Casolo Lawyer, Two Others

December 14, 1989

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ Police Thursday raided the home of a lawyer who defended an American accused of hiding rebel munitions in her garden and arrested the attorney’s sister and two other people.

The Treasury Police confirmed the arrest of Vilma Ibarra, the sister of lawyer Salvador Ibarra, and a married couple in the house early Thursday. But they refused to give details or to identify the couple.

Ibarra’s client, 28-year-old Jennifer J. Casolo, was arrested Nov. 26 with seven other Salvadorans after police, at the height of a leftist guerrilla offensive, found a cache of ammunition and explosives buried in her backyard.

Authorities released Casolo, a native of Thomaston, Conn., on Wednesday into the custody of Ambassador William Walker and deported her immediately to the United States.

David Romero, the military court clerk handling the case, said Thursday that Judge Guillermo Romero Hernandez had also signed an order freeing the two Salvadoran women and five men arrested in the same case.

Insufficient evidence was cited as the reason for freeing Casolo and the Salvadorans.

Sonia Mauricio Barahona, the lawyer’s housemaid, said in a telephone interview that Treasury Police raided Salvador Ibarra’s house on the northwest side of the capital Thursday and took all three people away.

″They came in two trucks full of uniformed police around six o’clock in the morning, entered the house, searched it, and took the people away,″ she said.

″I had just come from getting bread, and they asked me how long I have been working in this house and how many guerrillas there were, and then they left,″ she said.

Salvador Ibarra was away on business in the United States during the raid.

President Alfredo Cristiani, who announced Casolo’s release, had said the case would remain open.

Cristiani said he was ″morally convinced that Miss Casolo is guilty,″ adding that ″the evidence - be it incriminating or exculpating - will continue to be gathered. If the evidence against her becomes sufficient, she will be summoned to return for trial.″

In the walled garden behind the house where she was living, police said they dug up 103 mortar shells, 213 blocks of dynamite, 405 detonators, 150 feet of slow-burning fuse, and 21,945 rounds of ammunition for Soviet-made automatic rifles.

Casolo said she was innocent and did not know how the weapons got there. She was charged with terrorism, possessing weapons of war, and criminal association.

She spent five years in El Salvador, working for Christian Education Seminars, which organizes tours for Americans to learn about the civil war.

The right-wing government declared a state-of-siege when the rebels launched their offensive Nov. 11. The state-of-siege combined with standing anti-terrorism laws had made Casolo and the seven Salvadorans liable for trial by a military court.

Update hourly