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Former Guatemalan ruler Efrain Rios Montt will stand trial August 14 on charges of genocide in connection with the killing of indigenous people during his regime in the 1980s, the Supreme Court said Thursday.
The decision to put Rios Montt on trial will mark the first time genocide proceedings have been brought over the 36-year civil war that ended in 1996, leaving an estimated 200,000 people dead, according to the United Nations.
Carlos Castillo, a spokesman for the Supreme Court, said the trial could be delayed, however, if the ex-ruler files an appeal. He was in power from 1982 to 1983.
His attorneys have in fact said they will appeal against his being tried, on grounds he never knew the army was committing massacres.
Due to stand trial along with Rios Montt is retired general Jose Rodriguez, a former member of the military leadership.
The decision to put them on trial was taken in late January, and after a session last week in which both sides explained what evidence they will present, all that was left was for the court to set a trial date.
Rios Montt, who has been under house arrest for a year, and Rodriguez are charged over the massacre of 1,771 Ixil Maya people in Quiche department while the former was in power.
Rios Montt was known for his "scorched earth" campaign against people the government claimed were leftist rebels but were often in fact members of indigenous Maya communities who were not involved in the conflict.
Rios Montt's time in power is considered among the most violent of the Guatemalan civil war.