August 24, 2019
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Salvadoran woman hopeful of acquittal in retrial for stillbirth

Ciudad Delgado, El Salvador, Aug 15 (efe-epa).- A Salvadoran woman sentenced to 30 years in prison after a stillborn delivery was back in court here Thursday for a retrial on homicide charges.

Judge Jose Virgilio Jurado Martinez ordered an early recess after one of the witnesses against 21-year-old Evelyn Hernandez failed to appear.

Defense attorney Bertha de Leon told reporters that the missing witness, a policewoman, is expected to take the stand on Friday at the courthouse in the eastern city of Ciudad Delgado.

The defense team is optimistic "because there is no indication that Evelyn wanted to kill the newborn," De Leon said.

Another lawyer representing Hernandez, Arnau Baulenas, said the court heard on Thursday from four witnesses - two each for the prosecution and the defense.

"In principle, the trial could end tomorrow and we would have to await the decision made by the judge," Baulenas said.

Both attorneys expressed confidence that their client will be acquitted.

Hernandez, who was a teenager when she became pregnant as the result of a rape, took advantage of the media presence to insist again on her innocence and to urge prosecutors to drop the case.

"I only want to say that I am innocent. I ask the Attorney General's Office to reflect on things, because I am truly innocent and I hope that the judge does justice and, God willing, everything comes out fine," she said.

The prosecutors, who have declined to talk to the press, accuse Hernandez of aggravated manslaughter for failing to protect the life of her baby.

Hernandez was convicted on that charge and sentenced to 30 years in July 2017, but the Salvadoran Supreme Court overturned the verdict last December and ordered a new trial.

On April 6, 2016, Hernandez's mother and a neighbor found the young woman soaked in blood on the bathroom floor.

Paramedics diagnosed her with shock and took her to the hospital in Cojutepeque, about 40km (25mi) east of San Salvador, where the doctors detected signs that she had given birth.

El Salvador prohibits abortion under all circumstances and according to Hernandez's lawyers, the physicians reported the incident to authorities, who discovered the newborn dead at her home.

The case has captured worldwide attention and human rights organizations and groups advocating the decriminalization of abortion have asked the Salvadoran AG office to drop the charges against Hernandez.

Because of the country's draconian anti-abortion law, Salvadoran women who suffer miscarriages or spontaneous abortions commonly find themselves under suspicion of aborting their babies. EFE

sa/dr

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