Guatemalan Prosecutor Appeals Ríos Montt Arrest

March 12, 2004

GUATEMALA (AFP) – The Guatemalan Prosecutor’s Office announced Wednesday it will appeal the house arrest of ex-dictator, former Presidential candidate and retired general Efraín Ríos Montt.

The house arrest was ordered Monday after a judge opened a case against Ríos Montt for the death of a journalist during violent protests in 2003.

“We are not in agreement with what the judge decided,” said Prosecutor Juan Florido in a press conference. The house arrest is too weak, he explained.

The judge sentenced the former dictator, who is 77, to a house arrest that consists of freedom of movement and requires only that the general show up to sign upon request.

The appeal will be based on the weakness of judge Victor Hugo Herrera’s resolution, Florido explained.

Herrera initiated the process against Ríos Montt on Monday for his “probable participation” of three crimes: preterintencional homicide (a death caused by intent to harm without intent to kill); coercion and threats.

Florido said he planned to meet with the prosecutor of the case, Nancy Paiz, to define the type of preventive measures he will request in the appeal.

When judge Herrera issued the house arrest, he announced the measure took into consideration the “poor investigation and lack of evidence presented by the prosecutor.”

The former dictator is accused of having organized thousands of supporters in a violent protest June 24-25, 2003, in an effort to be allowed to run in last year’s Nov. 9 Presidential election.

During the first day of the protest, 60- year-old journalist Héctor Ramírez died of cardiac arrest while being chased by a hooded mob.

A day after Herrera ordered the arrest of Ríos Montt, he opened a case against former legislator Jorge Arévalo for the same crimes. Arévalo posted $12,500 bail.

Seven other people are being investigated for the same incident, including former Minister of the Interior, Adolfo Reyes, and former chief of the National Civil Police, Raúl Manchamé.

This is the first time Ríos Montt (1982-83) has gone to court after losing his immunity Jan. 14, when his period as legislator and president of Congress ended.

The retired military officer also faces another lawsuit for the crime of genocide, which he allegedly committed when he was dictator.

 

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