4 Appealing Convictions in Bishop Gerardi's Murder

GUATEMALA CITY, SEPT. 27, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Four men sentenced for the 1998 murder of Auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi are seeking to have their convictions overturned.

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The appeal hearing for three military men and a priest began here Wednesday in the case of the murdered human-rights defender.

In June 2001, a court found retired Colonel Byron Lima Estrada; his son, Captain Byron Lima Oliva; and Sergeant Obdulio Villanueva guilty of the bishop’s murder and sentenced them to 30 years in prison.

Father Mario Orantes, Bishop Gerardi’s assistant, was found guilty of complicity and drew a 25-year sentence.

A court decision on the appeals is expected Oct. 8.

Bishop Gerardi, 75, who headed the Human Rights Office in Guatemala City, was bludgeoned with a concrete block on April 26, 1998. Two days earlier he had presented a report which blamed the army for most of the 200,000 deaths during Guatemala’s decades-long civil war.

Representatives of the archdiocese’s Human Rights Office requested that the prison sentences be upheld. The hearing attracted observers of international organizations, diplomats and human rights activists.

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