Jose Miguel Lam / AFP - Getty Images
A man whose relatives were assassinated at Dos Erres village in 1982 gestures while listening to the sentence given to former Army Special Forces member Pedro Pimentel Rios at the Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City on March 12, 2012. A Guatemalan court sentenced Pimentel to 6,060 years in prison because of his participation in a massacre in 1982.
A former member of an elite Guatemalan military force extradited from the United States last July was sentenced to 6,060 years in prison Monday for his role in the killings of 201 people in a 1982 massacre.
Pedro Pimentel Rios was the fifth former special forces soldier sentenced to 6,060 years or more for what became known as the "Dos Erres" massacre after the northern Guatemala hamlet where the killings occurred during the country's 1960-1996 civil war.
The sentence handed down by a three-judge panel is largely symbolic since under Guatemalan law the maximum time a convict can serve is 50 years. It specified 30 years for each of the 201 deaths, plus 30 years for crimes against humanity.
Pimentel Rios, 54, is a former instructor at a Guatemalan training school for an elite military force known as the "kaibiles."
Pimentel lived in Santa Ana, Calif., and worked in a sweater factory for years until he was detained by immigration authorities in May 2010. He was extradited to Guatemala the following year.
Guatemala's civil war claimed at least 200,000 lives before it ended in 1996. The country's U.S.-backed army was responsible for most of the deaths, according to the findings of a truth commission set up to investigate the bloodshed.
In December 1982, several dozen soldiers stormed the village of Dos Erres, searched homes for missing weapons and systematically killed men, women and children. Soldiers bludgeoned villagers with a sledgehammer, threw them down a well, and raped women and girls before killing them, according to court papers filed in a case brought by U.S. prosecutors against another former kaibil.
Jose Miguel Lam / AFP - Getty Images
Former Army Special Forces member Pedro Pimentel Rios is seen at the Supreme Court of Justice in Guatemala City on March 12, 2012.
Now grey haired, Pimentel denied being present at the massacre, saying he left the area in November 1982 to prepare enrollment papers for the School of the Americas in Panama.
"To the family members I wish to say that I, too seek justice and I am appalled at what happened to you, I share your pain," Pimentel said, according to PrensaLibre.com. "This is something I wouldn't wish on anyone, but I am affected, as I am accused of having participated in the killing of your relatives. I request further questioning of the last witnesses."
The ruling comes as Guatemala seeks to clean up atrocities from the bloody 1960-1996 internal conflict in which nearly a quarter of a million people died or went missing.
Guatemala opened an investigation into the killings in 1994 and unearthed 162 skeletons. Several years later, authorities issued arrest warrants for 17 kaibiles but the cases languished.
In August 2011, a Guatemalan court sentenced three other former special forces soldiers to 6,060 years in prison each for the massacre, and sentenced a former army second lieutenant to 6,066 years.
Courts opened a trial in January against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who ruled the country for 17 months during the war's bloodiest period from 1982-1983.
Montt, denied amnesty by a judge last month, faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. He is accused of ordering killings of at least 1,700 innocent Maya indigenous people during a government crackdown on leftist insurgents.
Montt appealed the amnesty decision to Guatemala's Constitutional Court and is awaiting a verdict.
His defense lawyers said that Montt, 85, did not control battlefield operations and that commanders were responsible for making decisions in their own posts.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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