ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 24 (UPI) -- An immigration judge in Florida approved the deportation of Salvadoran Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova to face charges of war-related crimes in El Salvador.

Judge James Grim found that the former defense minister of El Salvador assisted in acts of torture and murder, including several killings of U.S. citizens, committed by soldiers under his command during the country's civil war, The New York Times reported Friday.

Grim found that Vides, commander of the Salvadoran National Guard, aided in the slaying of four U.S. nuns in rural El Salvador in 1980. Five Salvadoran National Guard soldiers were convicted of the killings.

Vides said he didn't have any direct responsibility or knowledge about the killings and torture.

Grim also ruled that Vides assisted in the torture of two Salvadorans who testified against him in hearings last spring in the immigration court in Orlando.

It was the first time federal immigration prosecutors were granted authority to deport a top-ranking foreign military commander based on human rights violations under a 2004 law. The law was enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and was meant to prohibit human rights violators from entering or living in the United States.

"This is the first case where the Department of Homeland Security has taken this relatively new law and applied it to the highest military commander of [a] country to seek their removal," Carolyn Patty Blum, senior legal adviser for the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability, told the Times.

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