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Court Cases

Guatemalan ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt's genocide conviction overturned

Guatemala's top court has overturned a genocide conviction against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt and ordered his trial restart to solve several appeal issues. The ruling comes 10 days after his landmark conviction.

Guatemala's Constitutional Court on Monday ordered that all the proceedings against Rios Montt, 86, be voided going back to April 19, when the case was temporarily suspended by a dispute over which judges had jurisdiction.

His conviction was hailed as a landmark for justice in the Central American nation and the first such guilty verdict over a genocide which occurred during the country's 36-year civil war.

Rios Montt's lawyers immediately filed an appeal and he was moved to a military hospital, where he remains.

It was unclear when the trial would restart.

A bloody legacy

The ruling came 10 days after a three-judge panel convicted Rios Montt of genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in massacres during Guatemala's civil war. The tribunal sentenced him to 80 years in prison.

Rios Montt came to power in 1982 following a coup, and remained until 1983. He was accused of allowing his troops to massacre thousands of villagers, turning his back on rape, torture and arson by soldiers in an attempt to defeat Guatemala's leftist rebels.

He was tried for the killings of at least 1,771 members of the Maya Ixil indigenous group, just a portion of those who died during his rule.

Between 1960 and 1996, Guatemala endured a civil war that claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people, and Rios Montt's year in power has been considered the most deadly of the decades-long conflict.

Rios Montt has denied he knew of the massacres while in power.

For years, he avoided prosecution because he had immunity as a congressman, which ended in 2012.

hc/ccp (Reuters, AP)