Guatemala court orders trial of former dictator, rejects appeals

GUATEMALA CITY Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:04pm EST

1 of 9. Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt (C) leaves the Supreme Court of Justice, after a judge announced the decision that Rios Montt will stand trial for genocide charges, in Guatemala City, January 28, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez (GUATEMALA - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)

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GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - A Guatemalan court ordered 86-year-old former dictator Efrain Rios Montt on Monday to face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, throwing out 13 appeals presented by his defense.

A judge found sufficient proof linking Rios Montt, who ruled during a particularly bloody period of the country's 36-year civil war, to the killing of more than 1,700 indigenous people in a counterinsurgency operation in 1982 and 1983.

"It has been established that there is serious enough evidence to submit the parties involved to a public trial," judge Miguel Angel Galvez said, convening the defense and prosecutors to an initial hearing on Wednesday.

Prosecutors allege Rios Montt, who ruled as commander-in-chief for 17 months, turned a blind eye as soldiers used rape, torture and arson against leftist insurgents and targeted indigenous people during a 'scorched earth' military offensive that killed at least 1,771 members of the Ixil tribe.

Rios Montt was ordered to trial in January 2012 for the same alleged crimes, but his defense team stalled the process with a series of appeals, arguing that he did not control battlefield operations and that genocide never happened in Guatemala.

The former ruler has been under house arrest for over a year and the right-wing party that he founded changed its name last week in an attempt to distance itself from its past.

The court also ordered Rios Montt's military intelligence chief Jose Mauricio Rodriguez to face trial on the same charges.

(Reporting by Mike McDonald)

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