New Trial Date Set in Guatemalan Bishop´s Murder

Session Scheduled for March 22

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GUATEMALA CITY, MAR. 7, 2001 ( The long-delayed trial in the murder of Bishop Juan José Gerardi will begin March 22, a judge said.

Five people are accused of the murder of this herald of human rights. The trial should have begun Feb. 15, but it was postponed because of appeals by the accused.

Auxiliary Bishop Gerardi of Guatemala was murdered April 26, 1998, a few hours after he presented a report blaming the army for many of the abuses during the country´s 36-year civil war.

The five who face trial comprise three military men (Disrael Lima, former director of military intelligence; Byron, his son, a captain at the service of the then president; and military expert Obdulio Villanueva); Father Mario Orantes, who lived in the same residence as the bishop; and Margarita López, the parish house cook.

One hundred-fifty witnesses will testify during the trial, many of whom have been threatened over the past few years. Videos, photographs, press publications, and articles found at the scene of the crime, will be presented, Judge José Eduardo Cojulun announced.

Nery Rodenas, legal counsel of the archdiocese´s Human Rights Office, which Bishop Gerardi headed, said: «Let´s hope that no more appeals will be presented to delay the process. The judicial authorities should impose more drastic fines for the abuse of appeals.»

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