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Guatemala court to restart genocide trial of former dictator in January 2015

The genocide trial for former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt [JURIST news archive] will continue in January 2015, according to a Guatemalan court official. In May Rios Montt was found guilty of the genocide, torture and rape of 1,771 indigenous Ixil Mayans during his 1982-83 rule and was sentenced [JURIST report] by a three-judge panel headed by Judge Jasmine Barrios to 80 years in prison. The Guatemala Constitutional Court [official website, in Spanish] overturned his conviction [JURIST report] 10 days later and ordered the trial to resume from the point that it was stopped on April 19. Wilbert Molina, the secretary for the Guatemala Constitutional Court, stated [AP report] that Rios Montt's trial would not start again until 2015 because of a judicial backlog and a series of appeals that have delayed the trial. It is unclear when the court will issue a decision.

Rios Montt's trial marks the first time a head of state has been prosecuted for genocide in a national court and the UN has lauded [JURIST report] Guatemala's efforts. In April Flores, after being reinstated, attempted to invalidate [JURIST report] a year-and-a-half of court proceedings while she was recused from the case. However, Barrios, who issued the verdict, continued the trial [JURIST report] despite the prior ruling annulling the case. Rios Montt was previously 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. Rios Montt's trial began on March 19 after a court ordered [JURIST report] him to stand trial last January.

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