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Six thousand year jail sentence for Guatemalan soldier

The Americas Post - Remains of the Dos Erres massacre victims were recovered by archaeologists

A Guatemalan court on Monday sentenced a former special forces soldier to 6,060 years in prison for participating in a 1982 slaughter where 201 people were killed.

Pedro Pimentel, 55, was deported last year from Los Angeles to Guatemala to face charges of murder and crimes against humanity.  He is the fifth soldier to be sentenced for his role in the Dos Erres massacre during the civil war in that Central American nation.

The length of the sentence is largely symbolic because the laws of Guatemala only allow inmates to serve a maximum of 50 years behind bars.

A former soldier who participated in the slaughter said that Pimentel was part of a group of about 20 that entered the village in December 1982 in search of missing weapons.

The soldiers proceeded to bind up, strangle and kill villagers, including using a sledgehammer to slay children and a newborn baby, before dumping them in a deep well and razing the village to the ground.

Pimentel, a former member of the elite unit known as the Kaibiles, received 30 years in prison for each victim who died in the slaughter and 30 years for crimes against humanity.

Pimentel denied having been present at the slaughter, saying he left the area in November 1982 to prepare registration documents for the U.S.-run School of the Americas in Panama, where he became an instructor.

The court decision comes at a time when Guatemala seeks justice for atrocities in the bloody internal conflict that lasted from 1960 to 1996, where nearly 250,000 people were left dead or missing.

In August last year a judge sentenced another four soldiers to 6,060 years in prison each for their participation the slaughter of Las Dos Erres.

The court opened a trial in January against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who ruled the country for 17 months during the bloodiest period of the war from 1982-1983.

Montt, whom a judge refused to grant amnesty last month, faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. He is accused of ordering the deaths of at least 1,700 indigenous Maya during a government crackdown on leftist insurgents.

Montt appealed the amnesty decision to the Constitutional Court of Guatemala and is awaiting a verdict.

His defense lawyers argue that Montt, 85, did not control the operations on the battlefield and commanders were responsible for making decisions.