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Ex-Guatemala police chief gets life in prison

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BERLIN (AP) — A Swiss court on Friday sentenced Guatemala's former police chief to life in prison for his role in seven extrajudicial killings.

Erwin Sperisen was arrested in Switzerland in 2012 and accused of planning and directing operations to kill inmates at a Guatemalan prison during his tenure as police chief from 2004-2007. He was tried in Switzerland because he has dual Swiss and Guatemalan nationality.

Geneva's criminal court said it found Sperisen guilty of being jointly responsible for six killings and directly responsible for a seventh.

Sperisen, who denied the charges, was acquitted of three further killings after a three-week trial.

On Sept. 25, 2006, Sperisen and other top law enforcement officials led more than 3,000 police and soldiers into the Pavon prison farm to take it over from inmates who ran a crack cocaine lab inside and rented out plush homes on the grounds to fellow prisoners. Seven inmates were killed during the takeover.

Claudia Samayoa, director of Guatemala's Human Rights Defense Unit, called the ruling "a great achievement for universal justice."

"They are sending the message that no citizen can hide behind his or her dual nationality," Samayoa said.

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