Saturday, June 6, 2015

Join Fr. Roy and Women's Organizations in El Salvador in Calling for Women to Be Freed

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Teo is a young woman in El Salvador. She has one son and was eagerly awaiting the arrival of her second baby when she started feeling strong pains. She was home alone, so she called the police to take her to the hospital. However, it took hours for the police to arrive and while she was waiting she slipped and fell, passing out unconscious. When she came to, she was in jail. She was crushed to learn she had lost the baby. Teo has now been in jail for 8 years with 22 more years to go. Her son is growing up without her. Why? She was sentenced to 30 years in prison on homicide charges.
Alba was 5 months pregnant with her third child when she received news that her mother had died. She went into shock and this caused her to go into premature labor and lose the baby. When she sought help, she was taken to jail and has been there since, for 5 years with many, many more to go. Alba is visibly traumatized at not being able to raise her two daughters. She is intimidated by the jail guards who tell her not to share what happened to her. Her homicide sentence has so many irregularities that it even refers to a male involved in a shooting, not a woman who lost a baby, as if it had been copy and pasted from another homicide case.

Click here to sign the petition calling for freedom for Teo, Alba, and other women in the same situation.

Father Roy, myself, and several other activists met Teo, Alba, and several other imprisoned women on a recent SOAW delegation to El Salvador. There are currently 15 women -- many mothers -- serving 30-40 year sentences for having miscarriages or stillbirths. Additional women are also imprisoned while their trials are ongoing. What all of these women have in common is intense poverty and little to no access to medical care while pregnant, combined with no advocate in the legal system when they were suddenly accused of homicide while in a hospital bed. Several sought help when they started to bleed and were taken straight from the hospital to jail. Many were live-in maids, with one woman even prohibited by her employer from getting medical care until she was bleeding profusely. Most do not even have the money for their families to pay the bus fare to come visit them in jail.

Read more of the women's stories here.

Thanks to the dedication of grassroots activists and organizations who have been working for years to demand freedom for the women, some of those imprisoned have been released. Lawyers have reviewed their cases and found a presumption of guilt, lack of due process, and numerous other irregularities and problems. In February, Guadalupe was freed after 7 years in jail when the Supreme Court ruled there was not evidence against her and the Legislative Assembly approved a pardon. Then in April, lawyers won an appeal in Carmelina's case, after prosecutors tried to say she must be guilty because she didn't receive medical care while pregnant. But others continue to be locked up despite lack of due process, lack of evidence, and other irregularities. For the 15 women who have already been sentenced, a ruling of approval by El Salvador's conservative Supreme Court, a majority vote in the Legislative Assembly, and finally approval by the President are all needed for a pardon. Organizations here in El Salvador and internationally continue the struggle to win freedom for the women. 

Father Roy was so moved by this injustice, of impovershed women forced to spend much of their lives locked up because of a medical emergency that he and three others carried out civil disobedience this April to bring attention to the unjust incarceration of these women. In May, a judge ordered Roy, Ed, John, and Paki to stand trial starting July 7, where they face maximum of 6 months in jail for their action in solidarity with the women. This coming August, Father Roy and the the other three co-defendants will travel to El Salvador to meet with the women and their lawyers as a gesture of solidarity.

Join Father Roy and women's organizations in El Salvador in calling for the women to be freed.

In El Salvador, the struggle to free the women continues.  Thank you for signing the petition, which we will present to the appropriate authorities and also share with the women and their lawyers. 

Salvadoran women and mothers are also being imprisoned in the United States in for-profit immigrant detention center like Karnes and Dilley in Texas.  Women from El Salvador such as 25-year old Karen Morales Sanchez and her 8-year old daughter Yoana have been jailed for 11 months in the Karnes center.  Karen and Yoana were fleeing violence in El Salvador, only to find themselves locked up at a GEO Corporation Detention center that has been heavily criticized for its treatment of women and young children.  Women at Karnes have twice gone on hunger strike to demand freedom for themselves and their children from indefinite detention.  Many of these women and children are fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras; violence caused by decades of US military and economic destruction in Central America. Stay tuned for more as SOAW calls for an end to the militarization that fuels violence and displacement in Central America. 


Thank you,
Ana Aviles, SOAW El Salvador

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