Prosecutors in El Salvador have announced that they will appeal against last month’s acquittal of a young woman accused of killing her stillborn son, marking what would be her third trial in the socially conservative Central American country.

Evelyn Hernández was exonerated in an August retrial after an earlier judgment found her guilty of homicide and sentenced her to 30 years in prison.

Hernández, 21, said she was raped by a gang member and was unaware of her pregnancy until just before delivering a stillborn son in early 2016.

But prosecutors want another shot at returning Hernández to prison, where she has already served three years behind bars, due to what they describe in a statement as “overabundant” proof of her criminal responsibility.

“There’s no reason to consider her a victim of anything. On the contrary, the only victim is her son,” the statement said.

Hernández was rushed to hospital after complications during the birth. Once there, medical staff accused her of attempting an illegal abortion and handed her over to authorities, her defense says.

El Salvador’s supreme court overturned the original conviction in February, ordering Hernández be released, and concluding that the judge’s decision was based on prejudice and insufficient evidence.

Women prosecuted under El Salvador’s hardline abortion laws, which ban the procedure in all circumstances, include those who have suffered stillbirths after home deliveries as well as abortions induced because of medical emergencies.

“It is shameful that they insist on criminally prosecuting a woman without evidence that she committed the crime,” Hernández’s defense lawyer, Bertha María Deleón, wrote in a post on Twitter after prosecutors announced their appeal in the case.

Following her exoneration last month, Hernández used her newfound international platform to call for an end to the criminalization of women like her.

Astrid Valencia, the Central America researcher at Amnesty International, said: “It is appalling that, despite a ruling that confirmed Evelyn’s innocence, the state is still trying to criminalize her for suffering an obstetric emergency.

“The public prosecutor’s office must desist immediately from this disgraceful course of action, and ensure that neither Evelyn, nor any other woman, be deprived of their liberty on discriminatory grounds.”

El Salvador’s new 38-year-old president, Nayib Bukele, campaigned on a pledge to legalize abortion in cases where the life of the mother is at risk, but lawmakers have yet to take up any such reform.

Bukele has yet to make any comment on the case.


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