El Salvador rape victim suspected of having abortion acquitted at retrial

A young rape victim who was suspected of having an abortion and charged with homicide has been acquitted by a judge at a retrial in a case that has attracted international attention to El Salvador’s strict laws.

Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez, now 21, had served 33 months of a 30-year prison sentence when her conviction was overturned in February for lack of evidence and a new trial was ordered.

Prosecutors had asked for a 40-year sentence.

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The retrial was a first for such a case in the Central American nation, where prosecutors aggressively pursue legal cases against women who have miscarriages or other obstetric emergencies, accusing them of murder.

“Thank God, justice was done,” Ms Hernandez said following the announcement of the verdict, visibly emotional as dozens of women waited at the courthouse. “I also thank you who have been present here.”

“Yes we did!” the women chanted.

Ms Hernandez also thanked foreign diplomats who have followed the case closely.

The Associated Press usually does not name victims of alleged sexual assault, but Ms Hernandez has spoken publicly about her case.

Ms Hernandez’s fetus was at 32 weeks in 2016 when she felt intense abdominal pains and gave birth in an outdoor toilet. The baby was later found lifeless in a septic tank.

Ms Hernandez said she did not know she was pregnant and her mother said she found her passed out next to the toilet.

Both women said they did not know there was a fetus in the tank, but prosecutors did not believe them and pressed charges.


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