SANTO DOMINGO -- Autopsies on five men who were shot to death by police Dec. 30 in Santo Domingo revealed that four of them were shot in the back, Channel 37 television reported here Tuesday.
Dominican police said at the time that the deaths occurred during a shootout and that the dead were presumed criminals from whom they confiscated a shotgun and two pistols.
But medical examiner Sergio Sarita Valdes told Channel 37 on Tuesday that "at the moment the shots occurred, four of them were from behind."
"One of them has a gunshot in the back of the neck and it's a shot from close by, which means that he was held at gunpoint and was shot from behind, from the left," said the doctor, who added that three other men were shot "from short distance, but also from the back," and the fifth was shot "from the front, sitting down, lying down or kneeling."
The police version of the killings was rejected by the relatives of the victims.
The main opposition PRD party asked the Dominican Attorney General's Office to broaden its investigation into the incident.
"The police always try to justify all these deaths as occurring in shootouts," said PRD spokesman Andres Matos.
"It's not a secret to anyone that swarming within the police are bands formed by members of the force, who offer themselves to third parties to commit misdeeds, including the physical elimination of people," Matos said.
The president of the National Human Rights Commission, Manuel Maria Mercedes Medina, recently said that some 500 people died at the hands of the police last year, 50 percent more than in 2007.