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Six face murder charges in French filmmaker’s slaying

Six men—five members of a Salvadoran street gang and a police agent—face murder charges in the death of French filmmaker Christian Gregorio Poveda Ruiz, El Salvador’s attorney general’s office said. Poveda, whose new documentary on a violent Salvadoran gang was scheduled for wide release at the end of this month, was gunned down on September 2 just north of the capital, San Salvador, according to local and international new reports.

On Wednesday, police arrested four suspects in Poveda’s killing, including three alleged members of the street gang known as Mara 18, and a police agent assigned to the emergency phone system in a neighborhood outside San Salvador. Police arrested a fifth suspect who supposedly provided information that led to the other detentions hours after the killing, according to The Associated Press. 

Another gang member, who is in prison accused of several killings, is also accused of being the mastermind of the crime. The six men will be charged with aggravated murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and illicit association, the attorney general’s office said in a statement.      

Salvadoran news reports say gang members may have killed Poveda because they thought he was giving police information about activities of the Mara 18 gang. The local news Web site Elfaro reported that the accused police agent told gang members that Poveda had collaborated with Salvadoran police, providing them videos and photographs of the gangs.   

Poveda’s bullet-ridden body was found near his car on an isolated road in the town of Tonacatepeque, about 10 miles (15 kilometers) from the capital. He had been shot at least four times at close range. The day of his killing, the photojournalist was planning to visit the gang-controlled Soyapango neighborhood, AP reported. 

Poveda documented violence in El Salvador as a filmmaker and photojournalist over the course of three decades. Throughout 2008, he worked on a highly anticipated documentary about Mara 18, one of the country's most violent gangs. During the filming of the documentary, Poveda lived with gang members for 18 months. Local news reports said Poveda had received death threats from angry gang members.

The documentary, “La Vida Loca,” had already been screened at international film festivals and was scheduled for wide release on September 30. It showed brutal killings, rites of initiation into gangs, and the judicial system's ineffectiveness in combating gang violence.

September 11, 2009 11:15 AM ET |

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