Witness in Bishop Gerardi Murder Case Is Killed

Death Could Intimidate Others, Says Human Rights Office

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GUATEMALA CITY, JAN. 23, 2003 (Zenit.org).- A witness in the trial for the 1998 murder of Auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi has been killed, according to the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala.

«The witness in the case, Noé Gómez Limón, was killed on Dec. 19,» Nery Rodenas, director of the Human Rights Office, reported Monday. Further details weren’t released.

Attorney Mario Leal, who is in charge of investigating the Gerardi case, said the latest killing is under investigation.

Rodenas expressed his concern over the new killing since «not all witnesses would be present in a new hearing. Moreover, it is a way of intimidating other witnesses.»

The witness was found along a road in the south of Guatemala City with three shots to the head. He died later in a public hospital, Rodenas reported. The victim was a brother of Gilberto Gómez Limón, another witness in the trial, and fellow inmate of Sergeant Obdulio Villanueva, one of the accused of the crime.

Gilberto Gómez Limón told the court that the sergeant left the prison where he was confined the night that Bishop Gerardi was killed.

Villanueva, retired Colonel Disrael Lima Estrada, and the colonel’s son, Captain Byron Lima Oliva, were sentenced by a court in June 2001 to 30 years in prison for their role in the bishop’s murder. A priest, Mario Orantes, was sentenced to 20 years for complicity.

Last October, a Court of Appeals overturned the sentence and ordered a retrial of the accused. No date was set.

Bishop Gerardi, known for his defense of human rights, was killed on April 26, 1998, in the garage of his residence, two days after presenting a report that was highly critical of the military’s role in the 1960-1996 civil war.

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