Priest Asks for Acquittal in Bishop´s Murder

Guatemala Trial Hears Final Arguments

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

GUATEMALA CITY, JUNE 7, 2001 ( A priest accused of collaborating in the murder of Guatemalan Bishop Juan José Gerardi has asked the court for an acquittal.

Father Mario Orantes, 34, spoke before the Third Sentencing Court on Wednesday, after final arguments in the case were made.

«I trust in God and the Holy Spirit that the judges will be fair and declare me innocent,» Father Orantes said.

The priest said he found Bishop Gerardi´s body on the night of April 26, 1998. The police then seized Father Orantes´ dog, a German shepherd, claiming it had caused the death. Subsequent investigations disproved that thesis, in what Associated Press described as one of the «most disgraceful pages» of judicial investigation in Guatemala.

According to the Attorney General´s office, Father Orantes was a key figure in the crime, in which retired Colonel Disrael Lima Estrada; his son, Captain Byron Lima; and Sergeant Obdulio Villanueva, are also accused, together with the parish cook, Margarita López.

Bishop Gerardi was murdered two days after he presented a report blaming the army for most of the human-rights violations during this country´s 1960-1996 civil war.

Leopoldo Zeissig of the Attorney General´s office has asked the court to sentence the four of the accused to 30 years in prison, and Margarita López to three years. The Archdiocese of Guatemala has asked for the woman´s acquittal, saying there is no evidence of her involvement.

A court decision could come this week.

The archdiocese believes that the crime was planned in the general headquarters of the Presidential Chief of Staff (EMP), guards of the president.

The archdiocese has asked for the prosecution of Major Eduardo Villagrán, the then EMP chief of services; Rudy Pozuelos, head of that military unit which was under the army; and their boss, Álvaro Arzú, president from 1995-2000.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation