A teenage rape victim impregnated by her attacker has been jailed for 30 years after her baby son failed to survive.
Evelyn Beatriz Hernandez Cruz, 19, was convicted of aggravated homicide after prosecutors argued that she did not want the baby and intentionally threw the infant into a septic tank after she gave birth.
The baby was born prematurely at 32 weeks and Cruz’s lawyers said she was unaware that she was carrying a child and had suffered a stillbirth due to pregnancy-related complications.
Activists including Amnesty International have condemned the sentence, calling it a “terrifying example” of El Salvador’s “retrograde” anti-abortion law which jails women who suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth.
Tribunal Sentencia de Cojutepeque continúa vista pública contra Evelyn Beatriz Hernández, acusada de homicidio en perjuicio de recién nacido pic.twitter.com/oPSIo60PzZ
— Mauricio Orellana (@MauricioPCN19) July 5, 2017
Prosecutors claimed Hernandez threw the baby into the septic tank at a farmhouse north of the capital San Salvador and was taken to hospital by her family.
Staff called police, who recovered the baby’s body after questioning her following the birth on April 6 last year, the court heard.
The high school student, aged 18 at the time, claimed she gave birth in a toilet after she had confused labour pains with stomach pains, the Guardian and ElSalvador.com reported.
Local organisations said Hernandez was in a forced sexual relationship and had been repeatedly raped by a gang member over several months.
— Noticias Telemundo (@TelemundoNews) July 7, 2017
Her lawyer told the court that she had an out-of-hospital birth because she didn’t know she was pregnant.
They argued that medical experts were unable to ascertain whether the foetus died in utero and that two experts, including one in charge of the autopsy, found meconium – a baby’s first stool – in the child’s airways and that could have caused the death.
They also accused police of “contaminating” evidence by washing the baby’s body before it was analysed by experts, and said the judgment was flawed and based on prejudice.
However the female judge accepted the prosecution’s argument that she intentionally killed the child.
— Kristen Thompson (@herequeer) July 5, 2017
Hernandez’s lawyers are appealing Wednesday’s sentence.
El Salvador is one of just five countries where abortion is criminalised in all cases, even when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest or puts the health of the woman or girl at risk.
The ban has been in place since 1998 following a successful campaign by anti-abortion groups linked to the Catholic church.
Lawmakers in the Central American country have yet to act on a bill that was introduced to allow abortion in cases such as a rape or where there is a health risk.