Former Guatemala dictator faces war crimes charges

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 26, 2012 11:08 PM
Former Guatemala dictator faces war crimes charges

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt will face trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity as the Central American nation seeks to close files on a brutal 36-year civil war.

A judge found sufficient evidence that linked Montt, who ruled during a particularly bloody period in 1982 and 1983, to the killing of more than 1,700 indigenous people in one counter-insurgency effort.

"I believe that there is enough evidence in these charges" said Judge Carol Flores, who agreed with prosecutors that Montt, as head of the government, should answer for brutality under his rule.

Prosecutors allege that Montt, who ruled as commander-in-chief for 17-months, turned a blind eye as soldiers used rape, torture and arson to rid Guatemala of leftist insurgents.

The right-wing party Montt founded has lost relevance and the former general was turned out of power in a September general election, loosing the immunity from prosecution granted to public officials.

(Reporting By Michael McDonald; editing by Christopher Wilson)