Latin America & Caribbean

Guatemala judge suspends trial of former military ruler

Efrain Rios Montt in court 18 April 2013
Image caption Efrain Rios Montt's trial began in March

A judge in Guatemala has suspended the trial of former military ruler Efrain Rios Montt.

He was being tried for a counter-insurgency plan that killed more than 1,700 members of the Ixil indigenous group in 1982.

Judge Carol Patricia Flores said she was following a directive from the country's Supreme Court.

Mr Rios Montt, who ruled Guatemala between 1982-1983, denies the charges.

Judge Flores ordered the legal process to be set back to November 2011, before the retired general was charged with war crimes.

"I am not doing this because I want to, but because it has been ordered by the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court," she said.

The 86-year-old has been on trial since March.

He faces charges of crimes against humanity in connection with the killing of 1,771 indigenous Mayans during his 17-month rule in 1982-1983.

Prosecutors said Gen Rios Montt wanted to wipe out the indigenous group, which he suspected of supporting rebel fighters.

The proceedings were expected to last months, with hundreds of witnesses, since the prosecution admits there is no evidence directly linking Mr Rios Montt to the killings.

The former general abandoned politics in 2012, after serving in Congress for a number of years.

He has been under house arrest since his immunity from prosecution was lifted at the end of his term.

Mr Rios Montt is also facing charges over the forced displacement of 29,000 indigenous Guatemalans as part of what human rights groups have called his "scorched earth" policy.

An estimated 200,000 people were killed or went missing during Guatemala's 36-year civil conflict, which ended in 1996.

Mr Rios Montt's 17 months in power are believed to have been one of the most violent periods of the war.

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