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Guatemala Court Orders $1M in Damages in Sex Slavery Trial

FILE - Victims of sexual violence, who cover their faces to hide their identities, celebrate moments after a judge read the guilty verdict for a former military officer and a former paramilitary fighter for the sexual abuse of indigenous women during Guat

A retired army officer and a former paramilitary must pay more than $1 million in damages to victims of sexual enslavement during the country's civil war, a Guatemalan court ruled Wednesday.

The tribunal ordered former 2nd Lt. Esteelmer Reyes Giron to pay about $65,000 and Heriberto Valdez around $32,500 to each of the 11 victims who participated in their criminal trial.

Defense lawyers said the two do not have the money to pay such amounts.

At the trial, victims testified that they were raped and forced to cook and wash for soldiers during six months in 1982-83. They had gone to the Sepur Zarco base in northern Guatemala to ask about their husbands, who had disappeared when the military moved into the area.

Judge Yassmin Barrios said the court deemed the victims' testimony credible and their treatment “cruel and infamous.''

Reyes, Valdez and their lawyers had proclaimed their innocence and argued that the trial was a fabrication, but the defendants were found guilty of sexual enslavement and other offenses Friday. It was the first instance of a court reaching a conviction for sexual crimes during the 1960-96 civil war.

Reyes was also convicted of murder for the deaths of a woman and her two young daughters, and Valdez for the forced disappearance of seven men who were husbands of the victims.

They were sentenced to 120 and 240 years, respectively, although Guatemalan law caps actual prison time served at 50 years.