Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia sentences soldier for murders of civilians

Colombians demonstrate by covering themselves with sheets pretending they are false positive victims, Bogota (MAURICIO DUENAS/AFP/Getty Images, 6 March 2009)
Image caption The "false positive" scandal has provoked protests in Colombia, as with this demonstration in Bogota

A Colombian court has sentenced a soldier to 54 years in prison for killing three people and passing them off as rebels killed in combat.

The judge said Cpl Luis Alejandro Toledo posed the dead as Farc rebels to inflate his success rate in battle.

Prosecutors are investigating thousands of soldiers for similar alleged crimes, dubbed false positives.

A colonel from the same unit had already been sentenced to a long jail term in connection with the murders.

Cpl Toledo was found guilty of murder, forced disappearance, and conspiracy to commit a crime.

'Widespread killings'

The prosecutor's office said two of the victims, Fabio Alberto Sandoval and Eleonis Manuel Gonzalez, were lured to a remote farm in northern Sucre province with false promises of work on 1 November 2007, and then killed.

The third victim was killed two days later in the same area.

Investigators said Cpl Toledo admitted he and other soldiers involved in the killings had purchased weapons which they then placed next to the victims to make it look like they were armed rebels.

In July, a colonel from the same unit was sentenced over the same murders.

Col Luis Fernando Borja's sentence was reduced from 42 to 21 years for accepting responsibility for the murders and naming others involved in the crime.

The Colombian attorney general's office is investigating more than 1,500 cases of alleged 'false positives'.

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