Judge´s House Attacked in Guatemala

3 Defendants in Bishop Gerardi Case Refuse to Attend Trial

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GUATEMALA CITY, MAR. 22, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The residence of the judge overseeing the Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera murder case was attacked with grenades Wednesday night, on the eve of the trial´s opening.

Eye witnesses said that two grenades were thrown against Iris Jazmín Barrios Aguilar´s residence. Barrios Aguilar is the court judge in charge of the trial of those accused of the murder of the Guatemalan auxiliary bishop, who was a relentless defender of human rights.

After the attack on her home, the judge said she had not decided if she would continue on the case. «I am quite annoyed and angry because they threw two grenades from the back patio,» the judge said. «Although I am all right physically, they destroyed a water reservoir and made a hole in the patio.»

«I am going to have a medical checkup,» she added. «For the time being, I will continue on the case.»

The attack was made on the rear of the house. Police have been guarding the front, ever since last Friday´s attempt by intruders to break into the residence. The judge was quick to link the attack to the trial that will decide the fate of three military men, a priest and a cook, accused of killing Bishop Gerardi on April 26, 1998. «Sadly, in Guatemala, judges are not allowed to work freely,» Barrios Aguilar said.

The trial, which began today, is against retired Colonel Disrael Lima, his son, Captain Byron Lima, and military expert Obdulio Villanueva. Also on trial are Father Mario Orantes, the murdered bishop´s assistant, and parish cook Margarita López, accused of complicity.

Bishop Gerardi was killed two days after he presented a report on the worst violations of human rights in the 36-year civil war, which ended in 1996. Most of the violations were attributed to the army. In the past, witnesses, judges and attorneys connected with the case have given up, because of threats and violence.

Meanwhile, the three military defendants refused to leave their prison to attend the opening of the court case, sources disclosed.

Nery Rodenas, director of the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala, reported the military men´s decision to the press in the Supreme Court of Justice, where the trial was to begin. «We think it is a pretty clumsy way to try to get around justice; in no way is the attitude they are assuming — of not wanting to appear for the trial — justified,» Rodenas said.

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