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Guatemala court overturns genocide conviction

Top court rules that the trial of former military ruler Efrain Rios Montt restart to solve several appeal issues.

Last Modified: 21 May 2013 10:10
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Guatemala's top court has overturned the genocide conviction of former military ruler Efrain Rios Montt and ordered that his trial restart.

Constitutional Court secretary Martin Guzman said on Monday that the trial needs 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 the 86-year-old Rios Montt 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 ever 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. Flores 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 charged her with bias.

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

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