Guatemalan ex-leader taken under guard to hospital

AP News
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Posted: Oct 25, 2011 7:53 PM
Guatemalan ex-leader taken under guard to hospital

A Guatemalan judge ordered that former President Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores be taken to a military hospital on Tuesday for examination to determine if he is fit to face trial on charges of crimes against humanity.

Prosecutors' spokesman Manuel Vasquez says Mejia Victores was under sedation when the judge in the case went to his apartment to conduct an initial hearing.

The former president's lawyers had said he was unable to appear in court because he had suffered a stroke. But when the judge went to his apartment on Tuesday Mejia Victores was also apparently unable to participate in the hearing. He is in his 80s.

Mejia Victores was president of Guatemala from 1983 to 1986, and prior to that he served as an army general and defense minister at the height of the Central American country's 1960-1996 civil war.

He is accused of overseeing a series of massacres in Indian villages suspected of supporting leftist guerrillas.

A U.N.-sponsored truth commission found that 200,000 people were killed in Guatemala's 36-year civil war, 93 percent of them by state forces and paramilitary groups.

It is not the first time the judge handling the genocide case against Mejia Victores and other officials has run into similar situations with the elderly defendants in the case.

Earlier this month, Judge Carol Flores postponed a hearing to decide if a former general, 81-year-old Hector Mario Lopez Fuentes, should stand trial on similar charges.

Prosecutors say Lopez Fuentes brought to a hearing sedated, prompting Flores to cancel it.

She had canceled three previous hearings after Lopez's lawyers said he was too sick with prostate cancer to attend.

Lopez was detained in June on charges that he planned and ordered about 300 massacres when he was chief of staff of the Guatemalan military in 1982 and 1983.