- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 10, 2004

A federal immigration judge yesterday ordered the deportation of former Honduran Army Lt. Col. Juan Lopez-Grijalva to his home country, where he is accused of leading a death squad that kidnapped, tortured, raped and killed more than 180 people during the 1980s.

U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman Michael Keegan said Lopez-Grijalva was identified as the head of Honduran army Battalion 3-16 during the 1980s. The battalion was accused of death squad atrocities against perceived Honduran leftists.

Mr. Keegan said Lopez-Grijalva, held at ICE’s Krome Detention Center in Miami awaiting removal from the country, also led the Honduran Directorate of National Investigations and later was promoted to the head of military intelligence for the Honduran armed forces.

He said ICE special agents arrested Lopez-Grijalva in April 2002 after the Department of Homeland Security withdrew his temporary protected status because of his involvement in nonpolitical offenses before entering the United States. ICE also cited his participation in the persecution of others based on their race, religion, nationality and political opinion.

“The United States will not be a safe haven for those people who commit such serious and egregious acts,” said Jesus Torres, who heads the ICE field office in Miami. “Identifying and removing human rights violators who have no legal right to remain in the United States is — and will continue to be — a top priority for ICE.”

Lopez-Grijalva was living in an affluent neighborhood in Sweetwater, Fla., at the time of his arrest.

Battalion 3-16 was cited by human rights activists in the deaths or disappearances of at least 184 civilians in the early 1980s.

The intelligence battalion had been trained by the CIA and initially formed to combat a leftist insurgency and to support the Contras in neighboring Nicaragua.

Lopez-Grijalva went underground in 1995 after Honduran authorities charged him with murder and torture, and later sought residence in the United States.

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