SAN SALVADOR – Spanish priest Antonio Rodriguez is to return to his homeland after being sentenced to a two-and-a-half year jail term in El Salvador for helping gang members.
Rodriguez will not serve time behind bars as the sentence was less than three years, Nelson Flores, one of his lawyers, told reporters Thursday.
“He will leave this week,” the attorney said.
After being convicted and released, Rodriguez “needs to rest, recover and leave the country to visit his family which he has not seen for two years,” Flores said.
Rodriguez, arrested in late July, was convicted Thursday for criminal conspiracy, influence peddling and smuggling banned items to jailed gang members.
Rodriguez had confessed his guilt, but “within the context of his role as a facilitator for the dialogue process” between rival gangs in a bid to reduce killings, the lawyer said.
Although the priest was critical of a truce between the gangs, which he described as a “mafia-like peace,” in 2013 he announced that he supported it.
But in recent months, Rodriguez had distanced himself from the peace pact when it became evident that it had failed as acknowledged in May by then-Salvadorian president Mauricio Funes.
According to Flores, the court showed leniency towards his client because his role in the acts of which he was charged was minimal.
Rodriguez, his lawyer said, was not obligated by the court to reveal names of gang members or officials, nor other information about the case.
Flores said he and his client were happy with the court’s decision “because it is what (Rodriguez) had agreed to with the public prosecutor’s office.”
On Saturday, Attorney General Luis Martinez said that Rodriguez had agreed to collaborate with the law in order to facilitate his trial.
Under the terms of his release, Rodriguez was ordered not to have any contact with gang members, stay away from prisons and he can no longer serve as the head of the rehabilitation program for former gang members in Mejicanos, a suburb of San Salvador.