Former army aides sentenced to death in Guatemala
GUATEMALA CITY -- (AP) -- Three former members of army-organized
defense patrols have been sentenced to death for taking part in massacres during
the height of the country's civil war.
A court in Salama, about 35 miles north of the capital, restored
imposed on Fermin Lajuj, Pedro Gonzalez Gomez and Carlos Chen for their parts
in the 1982 massacres at Rio Negro and Agua Frio.
The initial death sentence following a 1998 trial was annulled
by an appeals court,
which ordered a new trial.
The defense said it would appeal. About 400 villagers from the
men's home village
of Xecoj protested the verdict, but left afterward without violence.
The army trained civilian patrols to help them combat leftist
rebels during the
36-year civil war, which ended in 1996. Many of the human rights violations
recorded by U.N. and Roman Catholic church surveys were committed by such
About 130 civilians were killed during the incident in the Achi
hamlet of Rio Negro, about 25 miles north of Guatemala City. The motives for the
killing were unclear.
In other cases, the army suspected villages of harboring rebels
or patrolmen used
their positions and weapons to press their side in local land disputes.