Court's Decision in Gerardi's Murder Irks Archbishop

Judges Behaved Like Pilate, He Says

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GUATEMALA CITY, OCT. 11, 2002 ( An appeals court decision to grant a new trial in the 1998 murder of Auxiliary Bishop Juan José Gerardi drew criticism from Archbishop Rodolfo Quezada Toruño.

“Justice must be done in the murder of Bishop Gerardi, because they have not killed a dog,” said the archbishop of Guatemala City, referring to Tuesday’s revocation of the sentences handed down last year against three military officials and a priest.

Retired Colonel Disrael Lima Estrada, Captain Byron Lima Oliva and Sergeant Jose Obdulio Villanueva were sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder. Father Mario Orantes, the deceased bishop’s former secretary, was sentenced to 20 years as an accomplice in the crime. The 4th Court of Appeals ordered the new trial.

“The judges behaved like Pilate,” Archbishop Quezada was quoted as saying by the Misna agency. “They could have confirmed the sentence of the accused and they did not do so, so as not to oppose the military men. They could also have released them, but they haven’t even done this.”

“They have limited themselves to remit the matter to another trial,” he continued. “Now we will have to start everything again from the beginning.”

He added: “We have a right to know the truth. Both the Church and Bishop Gerardi’s family are willing to forgive, so long as justice is done.”

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