Maximum sentences for killers of Costa Rica environmentalist

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Mar 30 2016 09:13 AM

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica - A Costa Rican court on Tuesday sentenced four men to decades in prison for the 2013 murder of an environmentalist and the rape of four Western female volunteers who were with him.

The judgment capped a nine-week retrial of seven men accused of the killing of Jairo Mora, a 26-year-old Costa Rican working to protect sea turtle nests on the country's Caribbean coast.

The court in the eastern coastal city of Limon found four of the men -- Hector Cash, Ernesto Centeno, Brayan Quesada and Donal Salmon -- guilty of murder, illegal detention, sexual assault and aggravated robbery.

It handed down terms of 74 to 90 years for each of the four convicted men, but under Costa Rican law the lengthy sentences automatically revert to a maximum of 50 years each.

The three other men accused in the trial were acquitted.

The crime occurred on Moin Beach, just to the north of Limon, on May 31, 2013. The savagery of the attack dealt a severe blow to the Central American country's image as a safe, eco-tourist-friendly destination.

Prosecutors said the convicted men were part of a turtle-egg poaching gang who grabbed Mora. They beat him unconscious, tied him to a pick-up truck and dragged him along the beach until he suffocated in the sand.

The four female volunteers with him -- three Americans and a Spaniard -- were tied up, held for hours and raped.

The retrial was ordered by an appeals court after the seven suspects were acquitted in a trial early last year because of police errors in handling the investigation.