After almost 20 years, a former Colombian army officer was sentenced Oct. 14 to 44 years in prison for his role in the deaths of over 245 civilians in the Trujillo Massacres between 1986 and 1994. Retired major Alirio Antonio Urena, a School of the Americas graduate, was a commander of an army brigade that evidently collaborated with paramilitaries in Valle del Cauca department at the time of the killings. The dead included Tiberio Fernández, a popular Catholic priest and political organizer whose body was found castrated and decapitated in the Río Cauca. The verdict was the first by the Colombian justice system in the notorious case, which was reopened in 1991 after justice officials had initially absolved the Urena and his co-defendants.
In a separate case, seven Colombian soldiers were found guilty in connection with the abduction and murder of a man who they falsely claimed was a member of the FARC guerillas. The trial in the city of Villavicencio found strong evidence against a major, a lieutenant and five other soldiers involved in the incident, which occurred in July 2007. Prosecutors said the soldiers abducted Eduardo Perez and took him to the town of Hato Corozal before shooting and killing him, subsequently claiming he was a member of the FARC. Investigators determined that Perez had no link to the guerillas. Sentencing is set for Nov. 22 for the soldiers, who were apparently led by Maj. Gustavo Soto, the head of an elite anti-kidnapping unit. (¡Presente!, AFP, RT, Oct. 14)