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Genocide Trial of Former Dictator Ríos M

April 22, 2013

Genocide Trial of Former Dictator Ríos Montt Suspended After Intervention by Guatemalan President Transcript This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form. JUAN GONZÁLEZ: An historic trial against former U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity came to an abrupt end Thursday when an appeals court suspended the trial before a criminal court was scheduled to reach a verdict. Investigative journalist Allan Nairn reported last night Guatemalan army associates had threatened the lives of case judges and prosecutors and that the case had been annulled after intervention by Guatemala ’s president, General Otto Pérez Molina. Ríos Montt was the first head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide. He was charged in connection with the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region after he seized power in 1982. His 17-month rule is seen as one of the bloodiest chapters in Guatemala’s decades-long campaign against Maya indigenous people, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. On Thursday, survivors of the genocide attempted to approach Ríos Montt inside the courtroom, screaming “Murderer!” AMY GOODMAN : The trial took a surprising turn last week when Guatemala’s current president, General Otto Pérez Molina, was directly accused of ordering executions. A former military mechanic named Hugo Reyes told the court that President Pérez, then serving as an army major and using the name Tito Arias, ordered soldiers to burn and pillage a Mayan Ixil area in the 1980s. We’re going right now to investigative journalist Allan Nairn. He flew to Guatemala City last week after we—he was called to testify in Ríos Montt’s trial. He was listed by the court as a “qualified witness” and was tentatively scheduled to testify Monday. But at the last minute he was kept off the stand “in order,” he was told, “to avoid a confrontation” with the president, General Pérez Molina, and for fear that if he took the stand, military elements might respond with violence. In the ’80s, Allan Nairn had extensively documented broad army responsibility for the massacres and was prepared to present evidence that personally implicated Pérez Molina, who was field commander during the very Maya Ixil region massacres for which the ex-dictator, General Ríos Montt, has been charged with genocide. Allan Nairn, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about the significance of the latest developments, the annulling of the trial of Ríos Montt? ALLAN NAIRN : Well, this trial was a breakthrough, not just for Guatemala, but for the world. It was the first time that any nation had been able to use its domestic criminal courts to try a former head of state for genocide. Dozens upon dozens of Mayan survivors of the massacres risked their lives to come and testify. A massive evidentiary record was put together, in my view, to proving a case of genocide against General Ríos Montt and his co-defendant, his former intelligence chief. A verdict was just hours away. A verdict could have come today in the trial, but yesterday it was all annulled after intervention by General Pérez Molina, the current president, and the Guatemalan military and oligarchy killed it. JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Allan, can you talk about what you learned in terms of the threats to the judges and—the judge and the prosecutor and what’s been their reaction, even though they’ve been sitting here now for several weeks in this trial? ALLAN NAIRN : In one case, one of—one of the lawyers involved in pushing the case forward was approached by a man who offered him a million dollars if he would kill the case against Ríos Montt, a million U.S. dollars. He also said he would help him launder the money, set up offshore bank accounts. The lawyer rejected that. The man then took out a pistol, put the pistol on the table and said, “I know where your children are.” Another was approached on the street with…


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