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Guatemala top court overturns genocide conviction

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 21, 2013 at 1:05 am •  Published: May 21, 2013

Judge Carol Patricia Flores had been recently reinstated by the Constitutional Court after being recused in February 2012. She ruled that all actions taken in the case since she was first asked to step down were null, sending the trial back to square one.

The next day, April 19, the tribunal hearing the oral part of the trial asked the Constitutional Court to decide if the proceedings should continue.

The trial was suspended for 12 days amid appeals and at times appeared headed for annulment. But it resumed April 30, and on May 10 the three-judge tribunal found Rios Montt guilty after more than 100 witnesses and experts testified about mass rapes and the killings of women and children and other atrocities committed by government troops. Rios Montt ruled Guatemala in 1982-83 following a military coup.

Survivors and relatives of victims had sought for 30 years to bring punishment for Rios Montt. For international observers and Guatemalans on both sides of the war, the trial was seen as a turning point in a nation still wrestling with the trauma of a conflict that killed some 200,000 people.

The defense constantly claimed flaws and miscarriages of justice.

Courts solved more than 100 complaints and injunctions filed by the defense before the trial even started.

Rios Montt's defense team walked out on April 18, arguing that they couldn't continue to be part of such a bad proceeding. When the three-judge tribunal resumed the trial, it ordered two public defenders to represent Rios Montt and his co-defendant, Jose Rodriguez Sanchez.

Rios Montt rejected his public defender and instead brought in Garcia, who was expelled earlier by the tribunal but reinstated by an appeals court.

Garcia had earlier been ordered off the case after he called for the three judges on the tribunal to be removed from the proceedings. He kept trying to have the judges dismissed. And the Constitutional Court ruled Monday that the trial should have been suspended while his appeal was heard.

The trial "was unlawfully reopened," Garcia said at the time.