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Updated: 6th January 2019 07:53

Bail decision for accused war criminal delayed

A man accused of war crimes in Guatemala and facing extradition to the United States is a flight risk and should be denied bail, a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice argued Friday.

A man accused of war crimes in Guatemala and facing extradition to the United States is a flight risk and should be denied bail, a lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice argued Friday.

Jorge Vinicio Orantes Sosa, 52, has both Canadian and American citizenship and is charged in the U.S. with lying to get his papers.

He was arrested in Lethbridge, Alta. last month while visiting family.

Sosa is accused of participating in a massacre in 1982 in a Guatemalan village where 251 men, women and children were killed.

"He is not here in connection with what happened in Guatemala," federal lawyer David Gates told the hearing. "He is wanted in the United States for lying about being a war criminal."

Sosa 'disappeared': U.S. lawyer

An arrest warrant for murder was issued in Guatemala years ago for Sosa. The U.S. indictment alleges he was the commanding officer of a patrol involved in attacks on the village of Las Dos Erres during the Guatemalan civil war and under the de facto presidency of Gen. Efrain Rios Montt.

"The special patrol proceeded to systematically kill the men, women and children at Dos Erres by, among other methods, hitting them in the head with a sledgehammer and throwing them into a well," reads the indictment.

Gates told Justice Suzanne Bensler that Sosa was informed by American justice officials last year that he was facing a possible indictment on immigration charges. He said Sosa originally agreed to co-operate and turn himself in, but fled.

"He disappeared. He left his car, cellphone and other belongings. He left his wife and got on a bus and headed for Mexico," said Gates.

The accused returned to Canada in January after learning his father was ill, Gates said.

Accused has family's support

Sosa's lawyer Alain Hepner said his client has not been convicted of a crime anywhere at this point and has not been given due process regarding the charges in Guatemala.

Hepner said Sosa has support from family and friends in Lethbridge and that 10 people had driven up to attend the hearing.

A friend of the family has offered to provide a bond of at least $100,000 and to provide him with employment and a place to stay, Hepner added.

"He would be under virtual house arrest," said Hepner. "There is no evidence he is going to flee. He has no papers to travel."

A decision will be handed down on March 9.

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