Guatemala's ex-police chief arrested in Geneva over murders

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 31, 2012 1:18 PM

GENEVA (Reuters) - Swiss authorities said they had arrested Guatemala's former chief of police on Friday in connection with a series of murders committed in the Central American country between 2004 and 2007.

Erwin Sperisen resigned in 2007 after eight murders raised fears that senior officials were linked to drug gangs.

Geneva prosecutor Olivier Jornot said that Sperisen, who was arrested five years after criminal complaints were first lodged in the Swiss city for killings in Guatemala, will be questioned over his alleged role in the killing of prisoners at the El Infiernito and Pavon prisons.

"He was head of the national police force during two campaigns to execute detainees and we will be looking into those murders," he told Reuters by telephone.

Criminal proceedings will take place in Switzerland and there is no chance of extradition as Sperisen also has Swiss nationality and Switzerland does not extradite its own nationals, Jornot added.

Philip Grant, director of the non-governmental organization TRIAL, which had previously helped submit criminal complaints about Sperisen to the Swiss prosecutor's office, welcomed the arrest.

"NGOs wish that a trial can rapidly take place so that the truth will finally be unveiled and the wall of impunity in Guatemala torn apart," Grant said in a statement on Friday.

A former police officer was also taken into custody in Guatemala in June in connection with the death of an El Infiernito prison inmate, according to the U.N.-backed international commission against impunity in Guatemala.

(Reporting by Emma Farge and Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Myra MacDonald)