September 23, 2012 / 12:09 AM / 7 years ago

Ex-Guatemalan Army commander accused in massacre faces charges in U.S.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A former Guatemalan army commander accused of taking part in the massacre of more than 200 people during that country’s civil war has been returned to the United States to face charges he lied about his past to gain U.S. citizenship, authorities said on Saturday.

Jorge Sosa, 54, arrived at Los Angeles International Airport accompanied by U.S. Marshals on Friday evening following his extradition from Calgary, Canada, where he was arrested in January, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Lori Haley said.

U.S. prosecutors, who have no jurisdiction in Guatemala, have not charged Sosa in connection with the December 1982 massacre in the village of Dos Erres.

Instead, he was charged with making false statements to immigration officials to cover up his past as he sought to become a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2008. If Sosa, also known as Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes, is convicted he could be sent to Guatemala to face charges there after serving his sentence.

According to a U.S. federal grand jury indictment issued in September 2009, Sosa was a commanding officer of a Guatemalan Army special forces unit that killed men, women and children of Dos Erres, often by hitting them with a sledgehammer and dumping their bodies into a well.

Members of the patrol, known as the “Kaibiles,” also raped many of the women and girls of the village before killing them.

The Kaibiles unit had been dispatched to Dos Erres to find members of a guerrilla group that had ambushed a military convoy in November 1982, killing soldiers and taking their weapons.

The massacre at Dos Erres is considered one of the worst atrocities of Guatemala’s more than 30-year civil war.

Prosecutors say Sosa, who had been living in Riverside, California, lied when told an examiner for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that he had never committed a crime or been a member of a foreign military.

Sosa fled to Canada following his indictment, law enforcement sources say.

A Calgary-based attorney for Sosa could not be reached for comment on Saturday afternoon. It was not immediately known if Sosa had retained an attorney in California.

The ProPublica news service said in a story on its website that Sosa had denied guilt in a recent telephone interview from jail in Canada, saying that he was working for the military in another village on the day of the massacre.

Sosa is the fourth accused member of the Kaibiles living in the United States to be targeted by ICE’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center.

In July 2011, Pedro Pimentel Rios, 54, was deported to Guatemala to face prosecution there in connection with the massacre.

In September 2010, 54-year-old Gilberto Jordan was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison and his U.S. citizenship was revoked after he pleaded guilty to lying to immigration officials about his role in the Kaibiles.

And in February 2010, Santos Lopez Alonzo was arrested by ICE agents in Houston and charged with illegal re-entry into the country after deportation.

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Jackie Frank

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