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UW Law Student Sues CIA Over Salvadoran Civil War Documents

SEATTLE — A University of Washington law student is suing the CIA over documents related to the Salvadoran civil war.

The student has filed a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit alleging the CIA has illegally withheld information about an El Salvador army officer suspected of human rights violations during that country’s civil war, The Seattle Times reported ( ).

Mina Manuchehri is a fellow with the UW Center for Human Rights and a third-year law student. Her lawyers filed the lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court.

It alleges the CIA has withheld documents regarding retired Salvadoran Army Col. Sigifredo Ochoa Perez, who is under criminal investigation in his own country for alleged involvement in the killings of civilians during the civil war in the 1980s.

It also challenges the CIA’s denial of records relating to UCLA professor Philippe Bourgois, who survived a massacre in Santa Cruz, El Salvador.

The lawsuit alleges there is ample evidence that Ochoa Perez led the troops who opened fire on unarmed civilians at Santa Cruz on Nov. 14, 1981, and again in the town of El Calabozo in August 1981.

“Access to the documents requested by the (UW Center for Human Rights) could facilitate justice proceedings in these and other cases of grave rights abuses,” the lawsuit says.

The UW Center for Human Rights claims that numerous CIA records discussing the colonel are publicly available in the Library of Congress.

However, the CIA—in response to a FOIA request Manuchehri filed in 2013—has said it will neither confirm nor deny the existence of records regarding Ochoa Perez’s service as a military commander during the alleged massacres.

“The CIA has wrongfully withheld the records,” the lawsuit alleges. “There is a substantial strong public interest in the disclosure of the documents requested.”

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