Latin America & Caribbean

Rios Montt fails to attend Guatemala genocide retrial

Former Guatemalan leader Jose Efrain Rios Montt arrives on a stretcher as a retrial against him opens in Guatemala City, on 5 January Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Rios Montt arrived at his retrial last week on a stretcher

A judge in Guatemala has ordered officials to verify the state of health of the former military ruler, Efrain Rios Montt, after he failed to attend a court hearing.

Last week, the 88-year-old appeared in court on a stretcher.

He is being tried for a second time on charges of ordering the killing of more than 1,700 people during his period in office in the early 1980s.

At a trial in 2013, he was sentenced to 80 years but the ruling was overturned.

Gen Rios Montt is the first former head of state to face genocide charges in his own country.

Overturned

He and his former intelligence chief, Gen Jose Rodriguez, were tried in 2013 on charges of ordering the army to carry out a series of massacres in which 1,771 people of the Ixil Maya ethnic group were killed.

Over three days in the early 1980s, soldiers systematically killed hundreds of men, women and children, shooting or bludgeoning them to death and throwing their bodies down a well.

Gen Rodriguez was acquitted while Gen Rios Montt was found guilty and sentenced to 80 years in prison.

Less than two weeks after Gen Rios Montt's conviction, Guatemala's highest court threw out the verdicts and ordered a retrial, arguing that the accused had been left without a lawyer at key stages of the trial.

The ruling annulled everything that had happened in the trial after 19 April 2013, the day when the defence team was expelled for accusing the presiding judge of failing to hear its legal challenges.

Gen Rios Montt and Gen Rodriguez have been under house arrest since then.

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