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CARACAS, Venezuela — A Venezuelan court on Friday sentenced nine former police officials to as long as 30 years in prison for the killings of demonstrators during street protests that led up to the failed 2002 coup against President Hugo Chavez.
Former Caracas police chief Henry Vivas, deputy chief Lazaro Forero and city public safety director Ivan Simonovis were sentenced to 30-year terms, the Attorney General's Office said. It said they were convicted of being accomplices to murder in the killings of two pro-government demonstrators, and accomplices in the attempted murder of two others and the wounding of a dozen people.
Six rank-and-file officers were sentenced to 17-year and 30-year terms for "complicity" to murder in the killings and other crimes, prosecutors said in a statement.
Both allies and adversaries of Chavez were among 19 killed on April 11, 2002, as an opposition march led by police approached a pro-Chavez demonstration in Caracas.
The violence preceded a short-lived coup in which Chavez was ousted by dissident military officers. He returned to power two days later with the help of loyalist generals and street protests by supporters.
Government foes blame the violence on National Guard troops and Chavez supporters who were filmed shooting from a bridge. Chavez backers say the police were responsible.