The country’s highest court has thrown the genocide case of the former dictator Efrain Rios Montt into disarray, overturning his conviction and ordering that the trial be taken back to the middle of the proceedings.
The Constitutional Court secretary Martin Guzman said the trial needed to go back to where it stood on 19 April. On that day, the general was briefly left without a defence because his lawyer was expelled from the courtroom after accusing the judges of bias.
The ruling came 10 days after a three-judge panel convicted General Rios Montt, 86, of genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in massacres of Mayans during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war. After two months of testimony, the panel found that General Rios Montt knew about the slaughter of at least 1,771 Ixil Mayans in the western highlands and did not stop it.
He was sentenced to 80 years in prison, drawing cheers.