World

Guatemala ex-police official convicted, sentenced to 90 years, in 1980 embassy siege

  • Indigenous women from the Ixil and Quiche ethnic groups arrive for the trial of former police officer Pedro Garcia Arredondo in Guatemala City, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. Arredondo was found guilty for the murder of 37 people who died in the 1980 attack and burning of Spain's embassy in Guatemala. According to testimony during the trial, civilians broke into the embassy on Jan. 31, 1980 to denounce alleged atrocities by the army in their communities during Guatemala's civil war. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

    Indigenous women from the Ixil and Quiche ethnic groups arrive for the trial of former police officer Pedro Garcia Arredondo in Guatemala City, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. Arredondo was found guilty for the murder of 37 people who died in the 1980 attack and burning of Spain's embassy in Guatemala. According to testimony during the trial, civilians broke into the embassy on Jan. 31, 1980 to denounce alleged atrocities by the army in their communities during Guatemala's civil war. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)  (The Associated Press)

  • Rigoberta Menchu, a Nobel Peace prize winner, listens as the judge reads the verdict for former police officer Pedro Garcia Arredondo who was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 90 years in prison in Guatemala City, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. Arredondo was found guilty for the murder of 37 people who died in the 1980 attack and burning of Spain's embassy, including Menchu's father. According to testimony during the trial, civilians broke into the embassy on Jan. 31, 1980 to denounce alleged atrocities by the army in their communities during Guatemala's civil war. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

    Rigoberta Menchu, a Nobel Peace prize winner, listens as the judge reads the verdict for former police officer Pedro Garcia Arredondo who was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 90 years in prison in Guatemala City, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. Arredondo was found guilty for the murder of 37 people who died in the 1980 attack and burning of Spain's embassy, including Menchu's father. According to testimony during the trial, civilians broke into the embassy on Jan. 31, 1980 to denounce alleged atrocities by the army in their communities during Guatemala's civil war. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)  (The Associated Press)

  • An indigenous woman listens to the judge read the verdict for former police officer Pedro Garcia Arredondo who was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 90 years in prison for the deaths of 37 people in a 1980 attack and burning of Spain's embassy in Guatemala City, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. According to testimony during the trial, the attack happened after civilians broke into the embassy on Jan. 31, 1980 to denounce alleged atrocities by the army in their communities during Guatemala's civil war. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

    An indigenous woman listens to the judge read the verdict for former police officer Pedro Garcia Arredondo who was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 90 years in prison for the deaths of 37 people in a 1980 attack and burning of Spain's embassy in Guatemala City, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015. According to testimony during the trial, the attack happened after civilians broke into the embassy on Jan. 31, 1980 to denounce alleged atrocities by the army in their communities during Guatemala's civil war. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)  (The Associated Press)

A Guatemalan court has sentenced a former police official to 90 years in prison for the killings of 37 people more than three decades ago when the Spanish Embassy burned down during this Central American nation's bloody civil conflict.

The court on Monday found Pedro Garcia Arredondo, a former special investigations chief for the Sixth Commando of the National Police, guilty of homicide and crimes against humanity for ordering officers to keep anyone from leaving the diplomatic mission as it burned.

Among those killed in the blaze was Vicente Menchu, father of 1992 Nobel peace laureate Rigoberta Menchu.

Menchu applauded the ruling. "We need to create hope and justice, even if just a drop of it, and this is an example that shows we can go to the justice system and work with it," she said.

Protesters from Indian, student, peasant, labor and other groups had taken over the embassy to call attention to massacres during the 1960-96 civil war. Police surrounded and sealed the facility.

Arredondo had proclaimed his innocence.

At least 245,000 people died or disappeared in Guatemala's 36-year armed conflict, according to a U.N. report.