Page last updated at 08:10 GMT, Thursday, 26 November 2009

Colombia jails death squad general over massacre


A Colombian court has sentenced a former general to 40 years in jail for his role in the killing of dozens of civilians by right-wing death squads.

Jaime Humberto Uscategui's sentence is the longest ever for an army officer in Colombia.

The court was told the general had knowingly let far-right paramilitary death squads use his army base.

Some 50 unarmed peasants were killed by the militia in 1997, and their corpses cut open and thrown in a river.

The killings happened during a five-day period in the remote village of Mapiripan in the eastern province of Meta.

Pleas for assistance from the villagers and local officials were reportedly ignored by Gen Uscategui.

The court found him guilty of murder, kidnapping and falsifying public documents.

National crusade

Gen Uscategui continues to maintain his innocence and says he will appeal the ruling.

The Mapiripan massacre heralded a bloody national crusade by the AUC - the right-wing United Self Defence Forces of Colombia - against Marxist rebels, which took the lives of tens of thousands of Colombians, the BBC's Jeremy McDermott reports from Medellin.

The paramilitaries often worked alongside the security forces against the powerful left-wing rebels, our correspondent says.

Details of the co-operation are coming to light after paramilitaries turned themselves in under amnesty legislation and began confessing their brutal activities, he adds.

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