Guatemalan gets 6,060 years for massacre

Former military commander Pedro Pimentel Rios handed largely symbolic sentence for war crimes committed during 1980s.

    A former member of an elite Guatemalan military force has been sentenced to 6,060 years in prison for his role in the killings of 201 people in a 1982 massacre.

    Pedro Pimentel Rios, was the fifth former special forces soldier sentenced to 6,060 years or more for what became known as the "Dos Erres" massacre after the northern Guatemala hamlet where the killings occurred during the country's 1960-1996 civil war.

    The sentence that was handed down late on Monday by a three-judge panel specified 30 years for each of the 201 deaths, plus 30 years for crimes against humanity.

    Guatemala's civil war claimed at least 200,000 lives. The country's US-backed army was responsible for most of the deaths, according to the findings of a truth commission set up to investigate the bloodshed.

    Al Jazeera's David Mercer reporting from Solala in Guatemala, said the verdict was largely symbolic since under Guatemalan law the maximum time a convict could serve was 50 years.

    Pimentel Rios, 54, is a former instructor at a Guatemalan training school for an elite military force known as the "kaibiles." He lived in Santa Ana, California, and worked in a sweater factory for years until he was detained by immigration authorities in May 2010.

    He was extradited to Guatemala the following year.

    In December 1982, several dozen soldiers stormed the village of Dos Erres, searched homes for missing weapons and systematically killed men, women and children.

    Soldiers bludgeoned villagers with a sledgehammer, threw them down a well, and raped women and girls before killing them, according to court papers filed in a case brought by US prosecutors against another former kaibil.

    Guatemala opened an investigation into the killings in 1994 and unearthed 162 skeletons. Several years later, authorities issued arrest warrants for 17 kaibiles but the cases languished.

    In August 2011, a Guatemalan court sentenced three other former special forces soldiers to 6,060 years in prison each for the massacre, and sentenced a former army second lieutenant to 6,066 years.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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