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El Salvador acquits woman accused of killing her stillborn child

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By Katy Dartford
El Salvador acquits woman accused of killing her stillborn child

A young woman from El Salvador who was suspected of having an abortion has been cleared of murder during a retrial.

Cheers of support greeted a suspected rape victim Evelyn Hernández when a Salvadoran judge acquitted her after having a stillborn child in April 2016.

The 21-year-old had already served 33 months of a 30-year prison sentence when her conviction was overturned in February for lack of evidence and a new trial was ordered.

Hernandez was raped by a gang member and said she was unaware of her pregnancy until just shortly before she gave birth.

The case has attracted international attention to El Salvador’s strict abortion laws.

"It was hard to be inside (prison) all that time, knowing I was accused of something I was innocent of, and I also ask for all those young women still inside, that they be released soon, " said Evelyn Beatriz Hernández, on receiving the verdict.

The retrial was a first for such a case in the Central American nation, where prosecutors have aggressively pursued legal cases against women who have had miscarriages or other obstetric emergencies, accusing them of murder.

"We cannot allow this to continue happening," said activist, Morena Herrera.

"We have to change the law, we have to change the enforcement of the law, and we have to obtain the freedom of the 16 women who are still in jail."

El Salvador has one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the world. Abortion is illegal in all circumstances.

Some 147 Salvadoran women have been sentenced to up to 40 years in prison in such cases between 2000 and 2014, according to the Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion, a local rights group.