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Rebels Deny Killing Human Rights Activist

January 6, 1988

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) _ Rebels of El Salvador’s umbrella guerrilla organization denied Wednesday that they were responsible for the Oct. 26 killing of a top human rights activist, as alleged by the government.

The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front called it a ″crude maneuver″ by President Jose Napoleon Duarte to conceal his responsibility in the shooting death of Herbert Ernesto Anaya, 32, a lawyer and president of the Salvadoran Human Rights Commission.

The commission, an independent, private organization, also rejected the government version.

Duarte said Tuesday that 19-year-old Jorge Alberto Miranda Arevalo was arrested in the slaying and that he and three other suspects belonged to one of five guerrilla groups that form the Front. The rebels have fought for more than eight years to overthrow the U.S.-backed government.

Anaya was killed by men firing handguns with silencers as he left his home.

Duarte said the arrested youth and three others being sought were members of the Urban Command of the Revolutionary People’s Army.

Both the Front and the Human Rights Commission accused the Duarte government of killing Anaya as part of stepped-up repression.

In a communique read over their clandestine Radio Venceremos, the rebels denied that Miranda Arevalo was one of their members. They called Duarte’s announcement a government ploy before the visit this week of the international verification commission on a Central American peace plan.

″Napoleon Duarte intends to cover up his responsibility in the assassination ... with a crude maneuver, presenting a supposed suspect in the crime who he says is a member of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front,″ the communique said.

Miguel Angel Montenegro, a director of the Human Rights Commission who said he was tortured when he was arrested in the past, accused Duarte of having ordered Anaya’s death. He said Duarte now sought to prove to the verification commission that the armed forces and the government were not responsible for the slaying.

The Human Rights Commission was founded in 1977 and has accused the government of violating human rights in its war against the guerrillas. About 65,000 people have died in the war, most of them civilians.

Domitila Arevalo Ascencio, Miranda Arevalo’s mother, denied her son was involved in the shooting and said the government offered her money to cooperate.

″It is all one more lie by the government,″ Mrs. Arevalo Ascencio, with tears in her eyes, told a news conference. ″My son is innocent and they offered me 12,000 colons ($2,400) so that I would collaborate and told me that with that money I could pay a lawyer for my son, but I refused because it is all a lie.″

She said her son was not allowed to sleep or eat until he signed a confession at National Police headquarters that he was involved in the crime.

Julio Alfredo Samayoa, president of the criminal investigation commission, said meanwhile that common criminals had been arrested in the Dec. 20 killing of Rene Joauin Cardenas Vargas, regional head of the government human rights commission in the eastern city of San Miguel.

He did not say how many were arrested but said they were not linked to the guerrillas.

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