San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Former Guatemalan dictator’s trial set for Aug. 14

GUATEMALA CITY – Former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Rios Montt will face charges of genocide against indigenous people in a trial set to begin on Aug. 14, officials said.

“The First Court has set the first hearing for Wednesday, Aug. 14, at 8:30 am,” said Carlos Castillo, a spokesman for the Supreme Court when asked about the trial, the first against a former Guatemalan president. He warned, however, that a delay may occur “if an appeal is filed before that date.”

Defense attorneys for the elderly former dictator said they have prepared appeals that they will file before the opening of the trial, arguing that “the former president never knew about the massacres committed by the army.”

Rios Montt, 86, goes on trial along with retired Gen. José Rodríguez, a military leader during his regime and allegedly one of those responsible for the so-called “scorched earth policy” against indigenous Guatemalans, who the military accused of collaborating with the guerrillas.

In a landmark ruling, Judge Miguel Ángel Gálvez decided last week to prosecute the former dictator and Rodriguez for the killing of 1,771 Ixil Mayan people committed in the province of Quiché (in the north), during the 1982-1983 regime, the bloodiest period of the 36-year Guatemalan civil war.

Gálvez set the trial date after a hearing last week at which the parties presented evidence, and after appointing a jury.

Guatemala experienced a tragic civil war between 1960 and 1996 that resulted in some 200,000 dead or missing, according to a United Nations report.

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