msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 1/25/2011 2:14:35 PM ET 2011-01-25T19:14:35

A Southern California martial arts instructor suspected of being involved in a 1982 massacre during a civil war in Guatemala was arrested in Canada and is awaiting extradition to the U.S., it was reported Monday.

Suspect Jorge Sosa was arrested last week while visiting his parents in Alberta, Canada, the Riverside Press-Enterprise said.

Sosa, 52, was indicted in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana in September after authorities said he lied about his role in the civil war when he applied for U.S. citizenship in 2008.

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Sosa was granted citizenship, but it was revoked after the grand jury indictment. He lives in Moreno Valley.

If convicted, Sosa could be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in federal prison and would then be deported, Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles told the Los Angeles Times.

In Guatemala, Sosa was a member of a special military unit called the "Kaibiles" and was the commanding officer of a unit assigned to find and arrest guerrillas who had stolen military weapons, according to court documents.

On Dec. 7, 1982, he and several dozen soldiers stormed the village of Dos Erres, near Las Cruces, and systematically killed the men, women and children, the government claims in the indictment.

The unit is accused of slaughtering villagers with sledgehammers and throwing people into a well.  More than 150 civilians died.

"Members of the special patrol also forcibly raped many of the women and girls at Dos Erres before killing them," according to an Orange County federal grand jury indictment.

Not safe in Guatemala
The court documents did not list an attorney for Sosa.

A man who answered the door at Sosa's address in Moreno Valley declined to comment to the Press-Enterprise.

Sosa's daughter, Christina Sosa, told the L.A. Times that the family fled Guatemala for California in the mid-1980s during the civil war, after threats by the government and other political parties.

"My family started speaking out. They did not like everything that was going on," she said. "They did not support the government. My dad was in the military... It just wasn't safe for us to be there."

The civil war in Guatemala claimed at least 200,000 lives before it ended in 1996.

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In 1982, the "Kaibiles" were tracking an armed insurgency by guerrillas opposed to the military government.

The killings cited in the indictment were investigated by the Guatemalan government 12 years later, when a judge ordered the excavation of the site and 162 skeletons were recovered.

Guatemalan authorities said the massacre qualified under the law as perverse brutality, and a judge in that country ordered the arrest of the Kaibiles in 2000.

In September, another former Guatemalan soldier who came to the U.S. was sentenced in Florida to 10 years in U.S. prison for lying on citizenship forms about his military service and role in the incident.

That same month, a Guatemalan judge ordered three men to stand trial for the Dos Erres massacre and arrest warrants were issued in that country for 14 other suspects.

The Inter-American Court on Human Rights, the legal arm of the Organization of American States, has condemned the Guatemalan government for failing to bring the soldiers involved in the massacre to justice.

The court ordered the Guatemalan government to pay $3.2 million in reparations to survivors and relatives of the victims, the L.A. Times said.

It also ordered the government to identify the officials who ordered the massacre.

The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

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