[JURIST] The Bolivian Supreme Court of Justice [official website, in Spanish] on Tuesday convicted seven officials—five military officers and two former cabinet ministers—of committing genocide. The military officials received sentences of 10–15 years while the former cabinet ministers received three-year sentences for complicity in the murders. The convicted leaders are not permitted an appeal [La Prensa report, in Spanish]. One commander of the army, Juan Veliz Herrera, pleaded innocence [La Razon report, in Spanish] and suggested he was being persecuted for having different political views than the current government and non-governmental organizations. Trials for the genocide began in 2009, when the court began the trial [JURIST report] of former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in connection with the deaths of 63 anti-government protesters in October 2003, now commonly known as “Black October.” Sanchez de Lozada and 17 other former government officials face genocide charges related to incident, for which he faces 30 years in prison if convicted.
Bolivian officials requested extradition [JURIST report] of Sanchez de Lozada and two other defendants from the US to face trial under a 1995 extradition treaty. A defense lawyer for victims’ families made another plea for extradition [La Razon report, in Spanish] after Tuesday’s convictions. However, the US has consistently refused to extradite Sanchez de Lozada, and his lawyers reports he resides in the US legally and maintains the prosecutions are political. The 2003 riots [BBC report] occurred when military forces clashed with predominantly indigenous farmers, coca growers, students and unionists who protested Sanchez de Lozada’s attempts to open up the country to free trade with the US and to export gas and other natural resources. The protests were led by his former political rival and current Bolivian President Evo Morales [BBC profile; JURIST news archive].