A 21-year-old woman, acquitted of the serious murder of her baby in El Salvador, has called her supporters to fight for others like her.
One judge said there was no evidence that Evelyn Hernández had killed her child who was found dead in the septic tank of the toilet where she was born.
His ruling contradicted that of a trial in 201
Women's groups hope the verdict will set a precedent for other imprisoned women.
"I demand that justice and freedom be done for the other women," said Hernández, referring to at least 17 women currently in jail for similar cases.
El Salvador has one of the strictest abortion laws in the world. Abortion is illegal in all circumstances, and those found guilty are imprisoned between two and eight years.
- The mothers are criminalized in El Salvador.
- Women can be arrested for miscarriages.
But in many cases, including the case against Ms. Hernández, the charge is being changed to a charge of serious murder, which will result in a minimum sentence of 30 years.
Whose was Mrs. Hernández accused? She killed her baby in 2016.
She has always maintained her innocence and said that she had been raped by a gang member and had no idea she was pregnant.
Ms. Hernández reported that she was suffering from severe abdominal pain and bleeding on April 6, 2016 when she was 18 years old when she was in her home in rural El Salvador.
When she went to the restroom, which was in an outhouse, she fainted. Her mother took her to a hospital where doctors discovered she was born.
She was arrested after her baby's body was found in the toilet's septic tank.
Originally, she was accused of aborting illegally in El Salvador. This charge was later changed to serious murder and she was sentenced to 30 years in prison in July 2017.
Her lawyers appealed the verdict, arguing that forensic evidence showed that the baby had died from meconium aspiration, leaving it with its own early-inspired chair.
This can happen while the baby is still in the uterus, during labor or immediately after birth. The argument of the prosecution is questioned that the baby died as a result of the inhalation of feces in the septic tank.
Ms. Hernández spent 33 months in prison before her appeal was successful and a retrial was ordered. She was released from prison in February until she was sentenced again.
What happened during the retrial?
The prosecution argued that she was guilty of "killing her baby by omission" and demanded an even tougher sentence – 40 years in prison – than those imposed in the original trial.
Evelyn Hernández claimed again that she did not trigger an abortion because she did not even know she was pregnant.
She said she confused the symptoms of pregnancy with stomach pain because she had occasional bleeding that she thought was her menstrual period.
"If I had known that I was pregnant, I would have been proud and happy with [the birth]," she said in the past. Her lawyers argued that she should be released.
On Monday, Judge José Virgilio Jurado Martínez said there was no evidence that a crime had been committed and that Ms. Hernández had been acquitted.
The prosecution has 10 days to appeal the verdict.
What was the reaction?
Ms. Hernández was visibly relieved and emotional after the verdict was read and embraced her lawyer Bertha María Deleón and other activists.
"Thank God, justice had happened," she said before thanking everyone who had supported her.
"I also thank my mother for always being with me, I know that it was difficult to be there all the time [in the courtroom] and to see myself accused of something I was innocent of" she said in a short speech in front of the courtroom.
"My future is to continue learning and achieving my goals," she said to the applause of the gathering. "There are many women who are still imprisoned, and I demand that they too be released soon," she added.
Ms. Deleón also called on the people gathered outside the courtroom to continue to fight for the release of women convicted under similar circumstances.
"We can not lose sight of. [of that fact that] There are more women being held because of injustice, we are making progress, and we want to continue fighting when we have gained Evelyn's freedom to free the others. " said.
Human rights lawyer Paula Avila-Guillén, who acted as advisor to the legal team of Ms. Hernández, said the ruling would not only help establish a precedent for the judiciary, but would also help "create a more favorable public opinion public opinion, which understands the total ban on abortion and its misuse. "
Amnesty International described the verdict as a" sweeping victory for women's rights in El Salvador "and called on the government of El Salvador," the most embarrassing and discriminatory Practice of criminalizing women to end ". ,