Guatemala army officer convicted in civil war case

AP News
Posted: Dec 05, 2009 12:09 AM

A retired army officer has been convicted and sentenced to 53 years in prison in the forced disappearance of civilians during Guatemala's civil war.

The convictions for the 1981 abductions at the village of El Jute were the first ever under charges of failing to respect the rights of civilians.

Witnesses tied Retired Col. Marco Antonio Sanchez and three paramilitaries to the disappearances of eight El Jute residents.

Prosecutor Manuel Vasquez said Friday that Sanchez was convicted by a court in the town of Chiquimula.

During a 36-year war, the military's scorched-earth campaigns reduced hundreds of Mayan villages to cinders, in hopes of choking off civilian support for guerrillas battling the government.