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Last Updated: Monday, 31 October 2005, 23:06 GMT
Salvadoran torture trial begins
Rebel fighters in El Salvador
The civil war in El Salvador took its toll on civilians
The trial has begun in the US of a former Salvadoran colonel, charged with human right abuses.

Nicolas Carranza is alleged to have let his soldiers torture and kill civilians during his country's military-dominated government in the 1980s.

Mr Carranza, who has become an American citizen, denies the charges.

The lawsuit, being heard in court in Memphis, Tennessee, was filed by seven of former and current Salvadorans.

"This is a first opportunity for our clients to finally have a chance to say what happened to them, to explain to a jury and to the world," lawyer Matthew Eisenbrandt told the Associated Press news agency.

Mr Eisenbrandt said he expects the trial to last up to three weeks and include testimony from torture victims and experts on the civil war.

Murder and torture

Federal law in the US allows American courts to assess damages in human rights violations abroad and seek compensation.

Prosecutions in El Salvador are barred by an amnesty law.

The lawsuit says that Mr Carranza commanded military and police units that took part in what they call a deliberate reign of state terror with the use of torture and murder.

In a pre-trial ruling, a judge found that claims of torture or witnessing wrongful deaths by at least four of Mr Carranza's accusers were valid.

More than 75,000 people died during El Salvador's 12-year civil war between the US-backed government and left-wing rebels, which ended in 1992.

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