Guatemalan ex-dictator to face genocide retrial

August 25, 2015

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — A Guatemalan court ruled Tuesday that ex-dictator Efraín Ríos Montt must face retrial for genocide during the country’s civil war, but ordered it take place behind closed doors because he has dementia.

The 89-year-old former general, who ruled the Central American country from 1982 to 1983, is accused of ordering the army to massacre more than 1,700 Maya Ixil indigenous people.

He was sentenced to 80 years in prison at an initial trial in 2013, but the Constitutional Court threw out his conviction on procedural grounds and ordered a retrial.

After defense lawyers argued Ríos Montt was no longer mentally fit to stand trial, the court sent him to a psychiatric facility for testing.

Recommended: How Guatemala’s former dictator Ríos Montt dodged a stay in a notorious psychiatric hospital

“The psychiatric experts all agreed the accused suffers mental illness,” said Judge Jaime González.

He concluded that “the incapacity of the accused to appear in public court has been demonstrated,” and ordered Ríos Montt to face trial behind closed doors, with no journalists present.

Doctors told the court last week that Ríos Montt alternates between moments of lucidity and dementia.

Ríos Montt and his ex-military intelligence chief, José Rodríguez, are charged with orchestrating a scorched-earth campaign in Maya Ixil areas as the government sought to stamp out rural support for leftist guerrilla groups at the height of Guatemala‘s 1960 to 1996 civil war.

Rodríguez will now be tried separately in open court, the judge ruled.

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