Ex-dictator stretchered to face trial for genocide

Ex-dictator stretchered to face trial for genocide

Monday, January 5, 2015 11:15 pm

Guatemala’s former dictator Efrain Rios Montt was hauled to court on a stretcher Monday to attend his retrial on genocide charges after the judge rejected his request for sick leave.

Judge Jeannette Valdez ordered police to fetch the 88-year-old former ruler, who is accused of ordering the army to massacre 1,771 Ixil Maya Indians during Guatemala’s brutal civil war.

Ex Guatemala dictator,  General Jose Efrain Rios Montt, arrives on a stretcher at his trial in Guatemala City

Ex Guatemala dictator, General Jose Efrain Rios Montt, arrives on a stretcher at his trial in Guatemala City

Rios Montt, who ruled Guatemala with an iron fist in the early 1980s, was sentenced in 2013 to 80 years in prison for genocide and war crimes, but the country’s Constitutional Court threw out the conviction on procedural grounds and ordered a retrial.

After Valdez rejected his request to be tried in absentia, saying medical documents did not indicate his health problems were high-risk, Rios Montt was brought into court on a stretcher with his face covered.

Dozens of indigenous protesters gathered outside to call for a new guilty verdict, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu.

The trial was scheduled to begin Monday morning, but even after Rios Montt’s forced appearance, defense lawyers stalled with a last-ditch effort to persuade the judge to let their client stay home.

Rios Montt has been under house arrest in an upscale neighborhood in the east of the capital, where he must be under “absolute rest,” according to his lawyer Luis Rosales.

He ruled Guatemala from March 1982 to August 1983, as the small Central American country struggled with a bloody civil war pitting successive rightwing regimes against leftist rebels.

Rios Montt and his former intelligence chief, Jose Rodriguez, are charged with ordering the army to carry out 15 massacres of Ixil Maya indigenous people in Quiche in northern Guatemala.

During the war, indigenous Guatemalans were often accused of supporting the rebels.

Rodriguez was acquitted in the initial trial.

The pair now face a new trial over the dictatorship’s scorched-earth policy.

Arriving at court in a wheelchair, Rodriguez said he was confident the retrial would clear his name.

“I want to put an end to this humiliation, this circus put together by NGOs that live off the conflict and international pressure,” he told AFP.

Human rights activists reject the defense’s claims that Rios Montt’s poor health prevents him from standing, calling them a strategy to delay the ruling.

Join The Conversation

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.