El Salvador wants third trial in baby death case

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-49619151

Evelyn Hernández poses for a photo after a news conferenceImage copyright
Reuters

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Ms Hernández left prison in August after a Supreme Court appeal

El Salvador wants to put a woman who was cleared of murdering her newborn child on trial for a third time.

Evelyn Hernández, 21, was freed from prison last month after a retrial which gained international attention.

Her baby was found dead in a toilet in 2016 after she fainted. But she said she had been raped by a gang member and had not known she was pregnant

Prosecutors will now appeal against the acquittal in a bid to send her back to jail.

The attorney general’s office said there was “overabundant and unambiguous evidence about the criminal responsibility” of Ms Hernández in her son’s death.

But her lawyer, Bertha María Deleón, said: “It is shameful that they insist on criminally prosecuting a woman without evidence that she committed the crime.”

If a trial is granted, it would be her third over the case. She was initially sentenced in 2017 to 30 years in prison for aggravated homicide, before the Supreme Court annulled the conviction in February this year, citing a lack of evidence. It ordered a retrial with a new judge, who delivered the verdict in August.

The treatment of Ms Hernández prompted an outcry from human rights and women’s groups in the region and around the world.

Amnesty International described last month’s verdict as a “resounding victory for the rights of women in El Salvador” and called on the government to “end the shameful and discriminatory practice of criminalising women”.

But in its statement announcing the appeal, the attorney general’s office declared was “no reason to consider her a victim of anything. On the contrary, the only victim is her son”.

Ms Hernández had gone to the outhouse toilet at her home in rural El Salvador on 6 April 2016 with stomach pains and bleeding when she fainted.

Her mother took her to the hospital, where doctors told her she had given birth. She was 18 at time and said she had not known that she was pregnant.

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Media captionEvelyn Hernández spoke to the BBC in 2018

She was arrested after the body of her baby was found in the toilet’s septic tank.

She was initially accused of abortion but the charge was changed to one of aggravated homicide with prosecutors arguing she had hidden her pregnancy and not sought antenatal care.

After the initial conviction, her lawyers bid for a re-trial by arguing that forensic tests showed the baby had died of natural causes and may have been stillborn.

Amnesty International condemned the prosecutors’ intention to appeal, saying: “It is appalling that… the state is still trying to criminalise [Ms Hernández] for suffering an obstetric emergency.”

Ms Hernández herself is yet to issue a statement.

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Media captionEvelyn Hernández thanked her mother after being cleared

In August, as she stood on the steps of the courthouse after nearly three years behind bars, she said: “Thank God, justice has been done.

“My future is to continue studying and to move forward with my goals. I am happy.”

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