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Mexican Military Court Finds Two Generals Guilty of Drug Trafficking

In Mexico, defense attorneys for two Army generals convicted of drug trafficking Friday say they will appeal. But, the two military men face other charges that could keep them in jail for many years.

The military court found Generals Arturo Acosta Chaparro and Francisco Quiros Hermosillo guilty of drug smuggling and related charges. The court sentenced Quiros to 16 years in prison and Acosta to 15 years. Both were convicted of helping smuggle drugs for drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who died in 1997 after botched plastic surgery to change his appearance. Quiros was also found guilty of taking bribes from the drug trafficker.

The two men also face separate charges in connection with the deaths of more than 130 people in the so called "dirty war" against leftist revolutionaries in the 1970s. This is the first time high ranking officers have been charged for crimes related to that period.

Mexican defense department officials say the trial of the two generals represents a victory in the war against drug trafficking as well as a high profile crackdown on corruption.

But defense attorneys say the case against the two men was flawed because it relied on the testimony of criminals, who they say are unreliable witnesses. The attorneys plan to appeal the verdict before the military Supreme Court.

The trial also drew fire from dissident army General Jose Francisco Gallardo, who called it a farce. He was released from prison earlier this year after Mexican President Vicente Fox commuted his sentence. Human rights groups had complained that his 1993 conviction on corruption charges was an attempt by the military establishment to silence him after he criticized the army.

General Gallardo said the trial of the two generals that ended Friday resembles his own case. He said the trial was a show staged by Defense Minister General Gerardo Clemente Vega Garcia and that the only way for real justice to be done would be to try the men in a civilian court.

For his part, General Vega has defended the military proceedings as a sign that no one in the military, no matter their rank, is above the law. He says the trial has strengthened the military and its ability to carry on the fight against drug smuggling.