Guatemalan high court suspends genocide trial of ex-dictator

Guatemala City, May 4 (EFE).- Guatemala's Constitutional Court has ordered the temporary suspension of the genocide trial of former strongman Efrain Rios Montt and co-defendant Jose Rodriguez, a spokesman for the tribunal said Saturday.

The justices ordered the trial be put on hold pending a final ruling on an injunction request filed by Rios Montt's chief counsel, Francisco Garcia Gudiel, the spokesman told reporters.

That definitive ruling is expected to be issued next week.

The trial resumed on April 30 after Guatemala's Constitutional Court said the case could proceed.

It began in March, but on April 18 magistrate Carol Patricia Flores ordered the proceedings halted, citing a Supreme Court ruling that mandated the correction of ostensible judicial errors at an earlier stage of the process.

The Constitutional Court lifted Flores' order, while also reinstating Garcia Gudiel as Rios Montt's attorney and excluding testimony from four witnesses who appeared during the first few sessions.

The April 30 hearing began with a re-reading of the charges against Rios Montt and Rodriguez, the former dictator's intelligence director.

Presiding Judge Jazmin Barrios then granted a week's recess to give Rodriguez's new counsel time to review the file.

Rios Montt, 86, and the 67-year-old Rodriguez, are accused in the deaths of 1,771 Ixil Indians between March 1982 and August 1983.

The trial marks the first time any Guatemalan ruler has been called to account for the massacres and atrocities of the country's 1960-1996 civil war.

Rios Montt presided over the bloodiest phase of a conflict that claimed more than 200,000 lives. Most of the dead were Indian peasants slaughtered by the army and its paramilitary allies.