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Guatemala ex-soldier sentenced to 10 years in US prison for ties to 1982 massacre

A judge for the US District Court for the Central District of California on Monday sentenced former Guatemalan soldier Jorge Sosa Orantes to a maximum of 10 years in federal prison for lying on his immigration forms about his role in a 1982 massacre in which around 200 people were killed. Orantes is a citizen of Canada, Guatemala, and formerly of the US; his status has been revoked [Toronto Star report] as part of this decision. The current case refers only to Orantes' conviction for falsifying his naturalization forms. He has not yet been indicted or tried in US courts for war crimes. However, part of his conviction relied on findings by the jury that he had participated in the massacre and had permitted his subordinate soldiers to engage in rape and murder. Orantes has maintained [AP report] his innocence and his lawyer reportedly stated that the trial was improperly conducted in the manner of a murder trial rather than a specific examination of the actual charges related to falsification of citizenship forms. Orantes was extradited from Canada to the US in 2011 to stand trial and he was convicted last year. Guatemalan authorities are seeking Orantes' extradition to stand trial for war crimes, and it is possible that he could be returned there after serving his prison sentence.

Prosecutions relating to the 1982 village massacre are still ongoing though some perpetrators have been caught and convicted. Some of Orantes' compatriots facing charges in Guatemala have been sentenced [JURIST report] to more that 6,000 years in prison for their roles. The first Guatemalan war crimes trials related to the massacre began [JURIST report] in July 2011. In April of that year Spain issued [JURIST report] an international arrest warrant for Mr. Orantes related to his involvement in the massacre, at that time he was being held in Canada for falsifying his US citizenship forms and it was unclear whether he would be extradited to Spain or the United States. Orantes is also not the first individual suspected of involvement convicted [JURIST report] of lying on immigration forms, in 2010 another man was given an identical 10-year sentence for the same offense relating to involvement in the same massacre.

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