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Colombian army officer gets 44 years for role in murder of 245 civilians

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A former Colombian army officer was sentenced to 44 years in prison for his role in the deaths of more than 245 civilians, many of whom were hacked to pieces with a power saw, officials said.

Retired major Alirio Antonio Urena received the sentence for killings systematically carried out out against the local population of the town of Trujillo in western Colombia between 1986 and 1994.

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At the time, Urena was a commander in Colombia’s Valle de Cauca state of an army brigade with ties to right-wing paramilitaries which was said to be responsible for the systematic assassinations of people in Trujillo, prosecutors said.

The victims of the killings were accused of collaborating with left-wing rebels, against whom the Colombian military has been waging a decades-long war.

The paramilitaries, who also are said to have close ties with drug traffickers, used power saws to dismember many of its victims.

The dead included Tiberio Fernandez, a popular Catholic priest and political organizer whose body was found castrated and decapitated in the Cauca River.

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Monday’s verdict was the first by the Colombian justice system in the notorious case, which was reopened in 1991 after justice officials originally had absolved the Urena and his co-defendants.

In a separate case, seven Colombian soldiers were found guilty in connection with the abduction and murder of a man who they falsely claimed was a member of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The trial in the city of Villavicencio, 95 kilometers (60 miles) south of Bogota found strong evidence against a major, a lieutenant and five other soldiers involved in the incident, which occurred in July 2007.

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According to prosecutors, the soldiers abducted Eduardo Perez and took him to the town of Hato Corozal northeast of Bogota before shooting and killing him. They subsequently said he was a member of the FARC, which was operating in the region.

Investigators later determined found that Perez did not belong to the rebels, and filed filed charges of aggravated murder and kidnapping.

Sentencing was set for November 22 for the soldiers, who were led by major Gustavo Soto, lieutenant John Suancha and the other troops identified as Carlos Bello, Abdon Guevara, Elio Celis, Gelver Perez and Johny Higuera

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Soto was the head of a unit focused on anti-kidnapping with jurisdiction over a wide area of central and eastern Colombia.

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Trump has been ‘insulated’ by his wealth to never have to learn from his mistakes: biographer

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President Donald Trump's inherited wealth has meant he's never had to learn from his mistakes, Trump biographer Tim O'Brien told MSNBC's Brian Williams on Thursday.

"Bloomberg Opinion writer and our next guest Tim O’Brien writes today, 'Yes, of course, you need a certain kind of appalling narcissism to be comfy promoting yourself as heaven-sent in a televised press briefing and as a deity on Twitter. It’s doubly unhinged when you’re doing this as president,'" Williams said. "He goes on 'The Trump of the past few weeks is the same disordered figure of the past several decades with, I suspect, a big dollop of something new blended in: unbridled and unmanageable panic.'"

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‘Both Putin and Xi will be voting Trump in 2020’: NYT columnist says Russia and China want ‘turmoil and chaos’

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The Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China are both rooting for President Donald Trump to win re-election in 2020, a New York Times columnist argued on MSNBC on Thursday.

Thomas Friedman was interviewed by Lawrence O'Donnell on "The Last Word."

"What do we know about how the leaders of other countries see Donald Trump at this stage in their dealings with him?" O'Donnell asked. "Especially this weekend, when it comes at the end of a week in which they’ve heard him call himself the King of Israel, they have heard him say he is The Chosen One. They have heard all the crazy things that everyone here has heard the president say."

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Trump is ‘not a stable genius’: GOP strategist says the president ‘doesn’t remember who and where he is’

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President Donald Trump's mental fitness is lacking, a top Republican strategist explained on "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell.

Rick Wilson, the author of the 2018 bestselling book Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever, blasted the commander-in-chief.

"Rick Wilson, your assessment of where the president stands as he heads off to the G7 summit?" O'Donnell asked.

"I think Donald Trump has had a week in which he is proving that this isn’t 87-dimensional chess game, this isn't some masterful strategy of communications or persuasion," Wilson replied. "This is an old man who is sick and who has problems and who has mental disconnects and who has aphasias and who has moments where he doesn’t remember who and where he is."

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