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US Court Sentences Ex-Guatemalan Officer for Lying about 1982 Massacre

  • VOA News

FILE - Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations escort Jorge Sosa, a former Guatemalan army commando, following his extradition from Canada, at Los Angeles International Airport in this handout photo, Sept. 22, 2012.
An ex-Guatemalan army commander was sentenced Monday in a U.S. court to a 10-year prison term for covering up his role in a 1982 massacre during his country's bloody civil war, in order to gain U.S. citizenship.

Prosecutors say Jorge Sosa lied to U.S. immigration officials about his involvement in the mass killings of 250 men, women and children, in what is believed to be one of the worst atrocities in 36 years of war.

A U.S. jury last year found Sosa willfully omitted both his military affiliation and his role in the killings, when he applied for permanent U.S. residence in 1997 and for naturalized citizenship 10 years later.

He was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2009 in connection with the false statements and subsequently fled to Canada. He was arrested there and later returned to the United States for trial.

At the October 2013 trial, U.S. prosecutors presented evidence that Sosa and other members of an elite army unit known as the Kaibiles entered the village of Dos Erres in December 1982 seeking stolen weapons. When none were found, the unit removed villagers from their homes and separated the men from the women and children.

A U.S. statement Monday said analysis showed some of the young girls had been raped, before the unit systematically began killing the villagers with sledgehammers and guns, and then throwing the bodies into a well.

Testimony from two Kaibiles who participated in the massacre showed that Sosa supervised the unit as its members filled the well with the mortally wounded villagers. The testimony also showed that Sosa at one point threw a hand grenade into the mass of bodies in the well.

Argentine forensic specialists exhumed the 12-meter-deep well in the mid-1990s, and one of the Argentineans testified in 2009 that his team found 162 skeletons. Of those, he testified that 67 appeared to be children under age 12.