The government of El Salvador has formally requested that the United States extradite a man wanted in connection with the murder of two American labor organizers in San Salvador early this year. But the suspect's attorney said he will fight the attempt, and charged the U.S. government with playing politics in the case.
The request, filed in U.S. District Court in Miami last week, asks that Hans Krist, 31, currently being held in Miami, be returned to face charges in San Salvador for the shooting deaths of Michael Hammer and Mark Pearlman on Jan. 3. The papers depend heavily on the testimony of Teresa Torres Lopez, a waitress at the hotel where the shootings took place, as evidence to support the extradition request.
Neal Sonnett of Miami, Krist's attorney, said yesterday that he would prove that Torres is lying, and accused the Justice Department of trying to aid Salvadoran officials in bolstering their case.
Krist and his brother-in-law, Ricardo Sol Meza, 34, have been charged with the murders. Sonnett said his client passed a lie-detector test and had no part in the shootings. He said Torres had lied to collect a $50,000 reward from the AFL-CIO. Hammer and Pearlman were land reform experts working for the AFL-CIOs American Institute for Free Labor Development.
In the affidavit she gave in Washington June 9, Torres said she feared for her life and had been told not to tell anyone what she had seen at the hotel the night of the shootings. She testified that she saw Krist and Sol Meza in the hotel coffee shop when Hammer, Pearlman, and a third person, Rodolfo Viera, arrived. Viera was wounded in the ensuing attack.
She did not see who fired the shots, but saw the two accused men standing over the bodies immediately afterward, the affidavit said.She never saw Krist with a gun, but did observed "a bulge in his jacket."
In a March 27 affidavit, taken in San Salvador, she said she saw three men with guns at the scene, and that Krist and Sol Meza had threatened to kill her if she talked. In the latest affidavit she retracted these statements, saying she never saw anyone with guns and had not been threatened.
Mark A. Torres-Gil, the U.S. Justice Department attorney handling the case for El Salvador, dismissed Sonnett's complaints. He said Torres also passed a lie-detector test, though the results would not be part of the evidence."The extradition hearing is not a mini-trial," he said.
Critics of the Reagan administration's increased military aid to the Salvadoran government charge that four American missionaries killed in December, as well as Hammer and Pearlman, were victims of the armed forces or their right-wing civilian supporters. The critics say that the government has not solved any of the thousands of killings attributed to the right.
The United ystates has pushed particularly hard to solve the cases involving Americans because of this criticism.