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Guatemala ex-police chief gets life in prison

Swiss court finds Erwin Sperisen responsible for killings of seven inmates, one of which he personally shot.

Last updated: 07 Jun 2014 02:06
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The Swiss court ruled that Sperisen personally shot dead one of the prisoners [AFP]

Guatemala's former police chief Erwin Sperisen has received a life sentence in Switzerland for the killings of seven inmates committed years ago in the Central American country.

Reading out the verdict to a packed Geneva court on Friday, chief judge Isabelle Cuendet said Sperisen had been found "jointly responsible" for six murders and was "directly responsible" for one more.

One of Sperisen's lawyers called the ruling "shocking" and announced that his client would appeal, the AFP news agency reported.

Guatemala President Otto Perez said his government respects the court's decision and would continue to follow the case as Sperisen fights the conviction.

Speaking from San Jose on an official visit, Perez called the charges against the former police chief "terrible," emphasising they refer to crimes committed before his presidency.

Sperisen, 43, holds Swiss and Guatemalan citizenship and, having left his homeland for Geneva, could not be extradited to stand trial for killing prisoners in the mid-2000s.

But Swiss citizens can be tried at home for crimes committed abroad.

'Total lack of scruplese'

The case was launched after a lawsuit filed by the mother of one of Sperisen's victims, and the trial opened on May 15.

Sperisen, who insisted he was innocent, was charged over the summary execution and subsequent cover-up of the murder of seven inmates in Guatemala's Pavon jail in September 2006.

He personally shot one of the prisoners dead, the court ruled.

It rejected separate charges of involvement in the summary execution of three prisoners who had escaped from the Infiernito jail in 2005.

Cuendet said that Sperisen's motives were "egotistical and particularly disgusting", noting that his behaviour "showed a total lack of scruples".

She also said he had displayed no empathy towards his victims, and that simply bolstered the need to hand down a life sentence.

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