GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The lawyer representing former dictator Efrain Rios Montt against genocide charges was shot to death Wednesday in the capital, Guatemalan authorities said.
Francisco Palomo was shot at least 12 times in the chest and face while driving through a residential and commercial neighborhood of Guatemala City around midday, firefighters' spokesman Raul Hernandez said.
"The victim, still alive, tried to flee the attack and drove a few meters before crashing into a tree," Hernandez said. "His body remained inside the vehicle."
He said early reports from witnesses and family members indicated that two unidentified men on a motorcycle attacked the lawyer. Police cordoned off the scene with yellow tape as investigators interviewed witnesses and examined a black Audi sedan with the driver-side window blown out.
Palomo's wife, children and colleagues, along with Rios Montt's daughter Zury Rios, rushed to the site and comforted each other.
Palomo, 63, was a former judge on the Constitutional Court and a longtime friend of Rios Montt.
He defended the former dictator in his legal battle against charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for the death of 1,771 indigenous Guatemalans at the hands of security forces during Rios Montt's 1982-83 regime.
Rios Montt was sentenced to 80 years in prison in 2013, but that conviction was overturned 10 days later and a new trial ordered.
A retrial scheduled for this past January was delayed indefinitely after Palomo and others on the defense team won a motion to have one of the three judges hearing the case recuse herself.
A specialist in criminal law, Palomo also represented former Interior Minister Carlos Vielmann, who faces a legal case in Spain accusing him of extrajudicial killings in Guatemala.
Guatemala has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, at 34 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to U.N. figures.