BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — A judge on Friday convicted a retired Colombian general of murder and sentenced him to 25 years in prison for the killing of a peasant decapitated by a right-wing death squad in the late 1990s.

Colombia's chief prosecutor's office says ex-Gen. Rito Alejo Del Rio did not physically participate in the murder of Marino Lopez but was a co-author for allowing far-right militias to operate with impunity in the banana-growing Uraba region where he commanded the army's 17th Brigade.

Several top paramilitary warlords have said Del Rio worked with them closely from 1995 to 1997. In those years, the militias evolved from private armies protecting ranchers from rebel extortion and kidnapping to murderous, drug-running gangs that killed thousands of alleged rebel sympathizers, often with military collusion.