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El Salvador: Intimidation, threats and judicial harassment against human rights lawyers Bertha de Leon and Teresa Naves

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On 18 November 2015, human rights lawyer Teresa Naves reported that she was being followed by the same unidentified man riding a motorcycle for the twelfth consecutive day.

These incidents follow a preliminary hearing on a criminal case brought by the human rights lawyer against former President Francisco Guillermo Flores Pérez. The other lawyer on the case, MsBertha de Leon, has also been subjected to threats and intimidation since this preliminary hearing.

Bertha de Leon and Teresa Naves are human rights lawyers working for the Study Foundation for the Application of the Law ( Fundación de Estudios para la Aplicacion del Derecho – FESPAD). FESPAD is a Salvadoran non-governmental organisation that works for the protection and promotion of human rights through providing legal support. The organisation fights for the promotion of human dignity, freedom and equality, and the development of a more democratic society.

On 18 November 2015 Ms Teresa Naves reported that an unidentified man had been following her since 7 November 2015 and that in some occasions the man would even aim a laser pointer directly to her face in order to further intimidate her.

Prior to that, on 17 November 2015, at approximately 9:30am, the human rights defender received a threatening phone call on her landline number.

Fellow human rights lawyer Bertha de Leon was also subjected to intimidatory acts. The human rights defender was followed and chased by an unidentified vehicle on 10 and 12 November 2015.

Both HRDs have also been victims of judicial harassment. In January 2015, the Prosecutor's Office (Fiscalía) filed an administrative complaint against FESPAD for allegedly disclosing confidential financial information that should be confidential. The General Prosecutor (Físcal General) has also sent letters to FESPAD threatening to bring a criminal complaint against the organisation for disclosing information contained in financial reports by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the United Stated Department of Treasury. These reports contain information that supports the case against Francisco Guillermo Flores Pérez.

The human rights lawyers are currently working on the criminal law suit that was brought by FESPAD against former president Francisco Guillermo Flores Pérez. The preliminary hearing took place on 5 and 6 November 2015, immediately before the intimidatory acts against the HRDs started. FESPAD charges Mr Pérez with embezzlement, illicit enrichment and disobedience for having allegedly stolen 15 million US dollars donated by the Government of Taiwan to El Salvador to help the victims of the 2001 earthquakes, and to help fight poverty.

Front Line Defenders expresses its grave concern at the intimidation, threats and judicial harassment against human rights lawyers Bertha de Leon and Teresa Naves, which it believes to be an attempt to silence human rights defenders in El Salvador and stop them from carrying out their legitimate human rights work.

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