SAN SALVADOR -- At least 14 civilians have been killed in political violence in the past two weeks, including two political prisoners who died while in military custody, according to human rights and military officials and local press reports.
Manuel de Jesus Araujo died at La Esperanza men's prison before dawn Sunday after security forces moved into the political section of the facility to remove 17 political prisoners who were not released under an amnesty last month.
According to the Defense Ministry, Araujo jumped from the roof of the penitentiary. The leftist Committee of Political Prisoners of El Salvador, however, charged that Araujo was tortured, killed in his cell and then thrown from a balcony in the prison.
Gerardo Hernandez Torres also died at the men's prison on Dec. 16 after having been captured by Army troops and held in the custody of the National Police.
"The autopsy clearly demonstrates that the cause of death was torture," the auxiliary archbishop of San Salvador, Gregorio Rosa Chavez, said in his Sunday homily.
Both prisoners were accused of being leftist guerrillas.
The remaining political prisoners were transfered to other jails throughout the country. The move apparently was meant to disband the penitentiary's political section that has been run by the political prisoners committee. Before more than 400 political prisoners were released under the amnesty, prison guards rarely entered the political section of the prison.
Seven people were reportedly killed last week when fighters from the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front attacked a coffee plantation in the eastern province of Usulutan.
Reporters who visited the plantation in the eastern province of Usulutan were told that the rebels attacked Army troops posted to protect the coffee harvest, one of the principal targets of the guerrillas' campaign of economic sabotage.
Also last week, two nurses from the government Social Security Institute were machine-gunned in an ambulance near Zacatecoluca, on a highway south of the capital. The armed forces blamed guerrillas for the attack. The guerrillas in turn blamed the military.
In an unrelated event Saturday, Medardo Serafin Ayala Perez, a telephone company worker and member of the leftist Telephone Workers Association, was gunned down at a bus stop near his home in the Zacamil neighborhood of San Salvador. No one claimed responsibility for the death squad-style killing.
The assassination might have been in retaliation for a rebel attack on a police patrol in the capital Friday. Three officers died in that attack.