September 10, 2019 / 2:57 AM / 5 days ago

Salvadoran activists hurl confetti, paint to protest new abortion trial

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - Activists in El Salvador threw eggs filled with confetti and sprayed red paint outside the attorney general’s office on Monday to a protest a decision to seek a third trial for a woman accused of killing her stillborn son.

A woman holds a sign while protesting outside the Attorney General's office in support of Evelyn Hernandez in San Salvador, El Salvador September 9, 2019. The sign reads: "Justice for Evelyn". REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

Abortion is banned in the socially-conservative Central American country, where women have been prosecuted for stillbirths after home deliveries and abortions induced because of medical emergencies.

A small group of masked women disguised as clowns ran up to the main entrance of the office and defaced it with red paint. They quickly retreated as dozens of other protesters chanted their support nearby.

The activists were protesting a decision to seek a third trial of Evelyn Hernandez, who was exonerated at an August retrial after she was convicted of homicide and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

“We do not want Evelyn to be viewed as a criminal and persecuted,” protester Claribel Ayala said outside the attorney general’s office.

“We’re going to stand with her until justice is done.”

Hernandez, 21 and from a small town east of the capital San Salvador, has said she was raped by a gang member and did not know she was pregnant until shortly before she went into labour in early 2016.

Hernandez was rushed to hospital after her child was stillborn. Medical staff accused her of attempting an illegal abortion and turned her over to authorities, her lawyer said.

The Supreme Court overturned the original conviction in February and ordered a new trial after concluding the judgment was prejudiced and based on insufficient evidence.

Attorney General Raul Melara said on Monday the activists are deliberately confusing the facts of the case.

“There are groups that have a big interest in seeing this as persecution against poverty, that this woman is being targeted because she had an emergency outside the hospital, but the proof is overwhelming and shows this isn’t the case,” he told reporters.

The request for a new trial must be reviewed by a separate court before it can proceed. Melara’s office said it is seeking a 40-year prison sentence for Hernandez.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria; writing by David Alire Garcia; editing by Darren Schuettler

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