Opening statements set stage for trial of suit - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Opening statements set stage for trial of suit

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A trial is underway in Memphis where a former Salvadoran military officer is being sued.

The civil lawsuit claims 72-year-old Nicolas Carranza committed crimes against humanity by allowing soldiers to torture and kill civilians during El Salvador's civil war in the 1980's.

During opening statements in federal court today, the plaintiffs' lawyer described Carranza as one of the top military officers in El Salvador who had the power to stop the torture and murder, but didn't use it.

The defense attorney countered, saying Carranza was trying to fix problems within the military and claiming he didn't have the authority to act on the violence against civilians without orders from a superior.

Carranza denies wrongdoing. He has lived in Memphis since 1985, working as a museum security guard, and became an U-S citizen in 1991.

The lawsuit was filed under federal laws allowing U-S courts to assess damages for human rights violations committed abroad by people now in the United States. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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