Lawyer: 'If you see this video, I will have been murdered by President of Guatemala'

President Alvaro Colom of Guatemala is asking the FBI and an agency of the United Nations to investigate claims he was behind the gunning down of a prominent lawyer last weekend which were made by the victim himself in a video tape.

"Unfortunately if you are watching this message it means that I, Rodrigo Rosenberg Marzano, have been assassinated by President Alvaro Colom," the lawyer says in the stunning 18-minute film, which was recorded in the week before his death and distributed to the media at his funeral on Monday. He goes on to accuse the President, first lady and other officials of being accomplices in a corruption scam involving front companies and drug laundering.

Insisting on his innocence, Mr Colom faces a political emergency of a kind hardly seen in any democracy. He is hoping to dampen down the scandal by making the request for outside help to investigate it.

"Never before has an elected president been accused of murder," the newspaper Prensa Libra noted. The macabre fact that the person making the allegations and the victim are one and the same has only added to the drama. The video has already attracted thousands of views on YouTube.

In the tape, Mr Marzano asserts that a former client, a businessman named Khalil Musa, was killed in March along with his daughter after he refused to go along with a scam involving a development bank and a "non-existent" social programme headed by the first lady. He predicts his death as a result of publicising his belief that Mr Colom and his associates were behind those deaths.

After a long civil war that ended 13 years ago and left 200,000 dead, Guatemala has been trying to shed its violent and unstable past. President Colom, a former engineer with a mild television manner, was elected in late 2007 and was seen as a sharp break from a string of pro-military leaders.

"First of all, I am not a murderer. Second, I am not a drug trafficker, and everything he says there is totally senseless," he said at a press conference, suggesting that the scandal was an attempt by his enemies to bring him down.

"The death of attorney Rosenberg has been used by political opportunists and traditional conspirators linked to organised crime to confuse public opinion and attack the top authorities."