Guatemalan ex-strongman vows to appeal genocide verdict

Guatemala City, May 11 (EFE).- Guatemalan ex-strongman Efrain Rios Montt has vowed to appeal his 80-year sentence for genocide and crimes against humanity, insisting he is innocent and that the trial was an "international political show."

"It's an international political show that will affect the heart and soul of the Guatemalan people, but we're at peace because we never spilled or stained our hands with the blood of our brothers," Rios Montt told journalists after Friday's verdict was handed down and before being taken to a military barracks that serves as a prison.

Rios Montt, 86, and his co-defendant, retired Gen. Jose Rodriguez Sanchez, were accused in the deaths of 1,771 Ixil Indians between March 1982 and August 1983 as part of a counter-insurgency campaign.

Rodriguez, who served as intelligence director under Rios Montt, was acquitted.

"They tried me and convicted me of genocide. The court found it convenient to see me as a genocidal killer," but there are no legal grounds for the verdict, he said.

"They didn't respect the evidence nor due process," he said in reference to the three-judge panel, adding that his defense team will seek to have the verdict overturned.

This is 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.