The former commander of an elite military unit accused of participating in the massacre of Guatemalan villagers was ordered Friday to be extradited to the U.S. to face perjury charges.
Jorge Vinicio Orantes Sosa, who was arrested while visiting family in Lethbridge, Alta., earlier this year, is sought by Guatemalan authorities who accuse him of war crimes.
The extradition hearing began Monday in a Calgary court.
Sosa will be granted 30 days in Canada as he is entitled to file an appeal of the ruling. The minister of citizenship and immigration will have to sign an order before Sosa can be surrendered to American authorities.
Sosa was one of several commanding officers of a squad of “Kaibiles,” an elite commando force accused of massacring the villagers of Dos Erres. A 60-person unit of fighters killed almost 200 people in 1982 in what is considered one of the bloodiest events of the 36-year Guatemalan civil war.
According to the U.S. extradition case, Guatemalan peasants were blindfolded, interrogated and killed by sledgehammer. Women and children were raped and villagers were thrown into a well.
Sosa was in his early 20s at the time of the killings.
According to the court, Sosa misled American authorities about his military service and participation in the crimes when he applied for citizenship there in 2008.
Sosa holds both American and Canadian citizenship, although defence lawyer Alain Hepner said he was unsure when the 53-yearold man applied for the latter.
Hepner said he was not surprised by the extradition ruling.
Sosa “knew it was coming,” Hepner said after court had adjourned.
Hepner did not say whether Sosa would be filing an appeal. If not, he will be returned to California.
This article was published by the Times Colonist on September 3, 2011.
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