The Hondurans escaped to Canada with the help of human rights groups that took their testimony.

Their accounts, which follow, were corroborated by interviews with survivors, by court testimony, by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Americas Watch, and by a 1993 Honduran government report on disappearances.

Ghost of German Perez

FLORENCIO CABALLERO said the prisoner who haunts him the most is German (pronounced "HERR-mon") Perez Aleman, a man he befriended and then betrayed.

Caballero said he enticed the union organizer to join him in a phony scheme to steal guns.

On Aug. 18, 1982, as they prepared to take the weapons from a local police station, Perez was seized by five men wearing disguises.

"German fought a lot. They bit his ear," recalled Caballero, who was a member of Battalion 316 from 1980 until he fled in 1984. "They wore false mustaches and beards and wigs. German pulled the wig off one of them. They finally dominated him and pushed him into a blue Datsun."

In a secret jail on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, the men tortured Perez and accused him of being an armed leftist, Caballero said.

Then they executed him.

Caballero knew the charges against Perez were false. He knew that Perez didn't even own a gun. But he did nothing to stop the execution.

"It makes me feel very bad because I met him. I became friends with him, and I turned him over," Caballero said. "They killed him unjustly."

He said Perez was held in a country home where as many as 30 prisoners at a time were kept in crowded quarters.

"When there was no more room to keep them there, and they weren't providing much information, they killed them. The prisoners always ended up dead."

The 37-year-old Caballero is a short, husky man who walks with the swagger of a weightlifter. He has a sixth-grade education and supports his family by working part time as a bus driver and as a maintenance man in his Toronto apartment building.

In the midst of talking about his past over dinner at a Toronto restaurant, Caballero suddenly threw a beefy arm into the air and shouted, "Goal!" He had caught a glimpse of the television above the bar and let out a cheer when he saw that the Spanish national soccer team had scored against the Italians in a World Cup match.

Grinning, Caballero peeled a shrimp, popped it into his mouth and washed it down with Budweiser. Then he returned to his story of torture and murder.

He has told this story many times. In October 1987, he described Battalion 316's operations before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica. He later spoke with the staff of the Senate intelligence committee about CIA collaboration with Battalion 316.

Caballero's accounts have been consistent over the years. Substantial parts of his testimony have been corroborated by prisoners of Battalion 316, former members of the unit and by the CIA.

The only dispute is over Caballero's role in Battalion 316: He says that he was not a torturer.

"I was an interrogator," Caballero said.