Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Court orders Rios Montt retrial

Jose Efrain Rios Montt wears headphones as he listens to the verdict in his genocide trial in Guatemala City (AP/Luis Soto)

Guatemala's top court has overturned the genocide conviction of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt and ordered a retrial.

Constitutional Court secretary Martin Guzman said the trial needed to go back to where it stood on April 19 to solve several appeal issues.

The ruling came 10 days after a three-judge panel convicted Rios Montt, 86, of genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in massacres of Mayans during Guatemala's civil war.

It found he knew about the slaughter of at least 1,771 Ixil Mayans in the western highlands and did not stop it.

The tribunal sentenced him to 80 years in prison in what many called a historic decision. It was the first such sentence given to a former Latin American leader.

Rios Montt's lawyers immediately filed an appeal and he spent only one day in prison before he was moved to a military hospital, where he remains.

The proceedings against Rios Montt were first suspended on April 19 after the tribunal hearing the oral part of his trial asked the Constitutional Court to decide if the proceeding should continue after another judge sought to have it annulled.

The trial had been nearing closing arguments when that judge, Carol Patricia Flores, intervened. She had been in charge of the first phase of the trial, in which evidence was gathered and determined to justify a trial, but she was removed from the case in February 2012 after defence lawyers accused her of bias.

Judge Flores was reinstated to the case in early April by the Constitutional Court and tried to halt the trial, but the tribunal hearing the case went ahead with evidence and convicted Rios Montt.

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