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Erwin Sperisen Swiss-Guatemalan ex-police chief loses appeal

Erwin Sperisen

Erwin Sperisen outside parliament in Bern on November 13


Erwin Sperisen, the former head of Guatemala’s police force, has lost an appeal against a 15-year prison sentence for his complicity in the killing of seven prisoners in Guatemala in 2006. 

Sperisen’s lawyers have announced they will go to the European Court of Human Rights. On Friday, his lawyer told the Swiss news agency Keystone-ATS that Sperisen was back in Champ-Dollon prison.

In a decision published on Thursday the Federal Court in Lausanne confirmed the main points of the verdict handed down by a Geneva court on April 27, 2018. The judges ruled Sperisen’s conviction was unobjectionable. However, the Geneva judicial authorities must compensate him because of his acquittal for the death of three other people. 

Sperisen, a dual Swiss-Guatemalan citizen who maintains his innocence in the murders, was initially sentenced to life in prison by a Geneva court for the crimes committed as head of the Guatemalan police force. 

The legal proceedings have taken place in Switzerland because that is where he has lived since 2007 and Switzerland does not extradite its citizens. The case is a rare example of Swiss justice trying a defendant for crimes committed in another country. 

Guatemala issued an international arrest warrant for Sperisen in 2010 and a year later he was detained in Geneva. 

In 2017, the Federal Court annulled a verdict by the Geneva court, which handed down and confirmed the life sentence in 2014 and 2015 respectively.


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