Guatemala high court overturns ex-strongman's conviction

Guatemala City, May 21 (EFE).- Guatemala's Constitutional Court overturned former dictator Efrain Rios Montt's genocide conviction and ordered a partial retrial.

Rios Montt was sentenced to 80 years in prison for the deaths of 1,771 Ixil Indians between March 1982 and August 1983 as part of a counter-insurgency campaign.

By a vote of 3-2, the Constitutional Court threw out the verdict and the sentence - as well as the acquittal of another defendant - and ordered the trial court to repeat the segment of the process that took place between April 19 and May 10.

The CC ruling means that retired Gen. Jose Rodriguez, who was head of military intelligence in 1982-1983, will be re-tried despite his having been found not guilty in the original process.

Rios Montt, 86, is currently at the Military Hospital in Guatemala City, where he was taken eight days ago after fainting while en route to court.

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

Prosecutors say 5.5 percent of Guatemala's Ixils were killed during the rule of Rios Montt, which coincided with 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.