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Guatemala judge reverses suspension of trial against former president

Judge Jazmin Barrios, the Guatemala judge presiding over the trial of former president Efrain Rios Montt [JURIST news archive] in Guatemala City, began the trial despite a prior ruling annulling the case. Judge Patricia Flores, who was recently reinstated to the case after being recused from it since February 2012, ruled to suspend Montt's trial [JURIST report] on Thursday, stating that all actions taken in the case since she was asked to step down were null, effectively requiring the trial to start over. Judge Barrios declared the ruling illegal [Los Angeles Times report], and called the court to order anyway. However, Montt's defense counsel did not show up in court, causing the trial to be suspended, prompting the crowds of Ixil Maya witnesses and supporters to rally in protest. The judges have asked Guatemala's Constitutional Court [official website, in Spanish] to determine if the proceedings will continue [Fox News report]. The court has 10 days to rule on the dispute.

Last month UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay lauded [JURIST report] Guatemala for beginning the trial of Rios Montt and former intelligence chief Jose Rodriguez Sanchez, both of whom stand accused of committing genocide and crimes against humanity. Montt has been ordered to stand trial multiple times for alleged genocide and crimes against humanity, and the trial started on March 19. In January a Guatemalan judge ordered [JURIST report] Rios Montt to stand trial. Last May Flores issued a second order [JURIST report] demanding Rios Montt stand trial after ruling that a sufficient amount of evidence had been mounted against him, necessitating his testimony before a court of law. Rios Montt was protected [JURIST report] from prosecution until last January because he was serving as a member of congress, an immunity that had been lifted due to his departure from the legislature.

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