Judge Sentences Former Secret Police Chief to 21 Years in Prison
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ The former head of the now-defunct secret police was sentenced to 21 years in prison for skimming 11 pounds of cocaine from a drug bust, a judge said Thursday.
Lt. Col Juan Blas Salazar Meza, chief of the secret police from 1980 to 1985, becomes the first active military officer convicted on a drug charge. Judge Renfren Paisano also fined him $250,000.
The judge said he had ordered Salazar Meza transferred from a prison farm on the Atlantic coast to the Central Penitentiary in Tegucigalpa.
Paisano said Salazar Meza had been enjoying special privileges at the prison farm, ``including a car he uses to leave jail whenever he wants.″
``This cannot continue,″ Paisano said.
In July 1994, authorities discovered 11 pounds of cocaine missing from a shipment of 200 pounds seized four months earlier in Gracias a Dios, a remote province near the Nicaraguan border.
Drug agents testified that they had left the cocaine in the care of Salazar Meza, the regional police chief at the time.
Paisano said he and his family had received numerous death threats since the trial began, but said he had not let them sway him.
``The trial of Salazar Meza (has been conducted) according to the law, despite pressures brought against me by military officials and politicians,″ he said, without naming anyone.
Salazar Meza also is also among 10 officers accused of the abduction, torture and attempted murder of six university students in 1982. That case is pending.