Latin America & Caribbean

Colombian soldiers jailed for 'false positive' killings

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 court in Colombia has sentenced eight soldiers to 60 years each in jail for killing four farmers and then claiming the men were left-wing guerrillas.

It is the latest prosecution in the so-called "false-positive" scandal that first erupted in 2008.

Security forces are believed to have killed thousands of civilians and passed them off as guerrillas in order to falsely inflate their success rates.

They used these tallies to claim promotion and perks such as days off.

The specific events happened in 2006 in the area of Yarumal, in the province of Antioquia.

The soldiers claimed the victims - Enrique Piedrahita, John Edison Galeano, Jesus Alberto Londono and Juan Dario Arroyave - were guerrillas killed in combat.

In a statement, Colombia's Public Prosecutor's office said the prosecutor had proved beyond reasonable doubt that "the victims were taken from their houses by force, there was no fighting, and that the men were farmers who were shot in the back".

The convicted soldiers included one officer, Luis Gabriel Rueda Acevedo.

The "false positive" scandal first hit the headlines under former President Alvaro Uribe.

There have been a number of high-profile resignations and prosecutions since.

But hundreds more cases are still being investigated.

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