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Aug 4, 3:53 PM EDT

Guatemala court orders competency evaluation for ex-dictator


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GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- A Guatemalan court ordered ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt hospitalized Tuesday for medical and psychological evaluation to determine if he is fit to stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Rios Montt was admitted to the private Los Pinos hospital in the Guatemalan capital after arriving in an ambulance, accompanied by several bodyguards and his daughter.

Under the order he is to remain there for 12 days while he is examined by a panel of 10 doctors, and the court set an Aug. 18 hearing to consider their findings.

The 89-year-old former general is accused of responsibility for the killing of 1,771 Mayan Ixil people by security forces during his 1982-83 regime. He was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to 80 years, but the verdict was overturned and a new trial ordered.

Rios Montt's legal team argues he is not competent to stand trial. He is said to suffer advanced dementia.

A recent report by Guatemala's National Institute of Forensic Sciences found that he was unable to understand the proceedings or assist in his defense, describing him as in a near stupor with clouded awareness.

But activists who have long hoped to see Rios Montt face the courts suspect an attempt to avoid retrial, and question whether his unresponsive state could be due to medications given to him by his personal physician.

The court originally ruled that Rios Montt be hospitalized two weeks ago, but his lawyers delayed his transfer through legal maneuvers.

Rios Montt's defense also sought Tuesday to have Judge Maria Eugenia Castellanos recused from the case because she studied in Europe on foreign-funded scholarships.

His lawyers argue that the prosecution of Rios Montt is ideologically driven and foreign governments financially support victims of Guatemala's 1960-96 civil war.

The court rejected the motion. Castellanos called it frivolous.

About 245,000 people were killed or disappeared during the conflict, according to a U.N. report, with security forces and paramilitaries blamed for nearly all the deaths.

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