Guatemala Court Rejects New Trial in Murder of Bishop Gerardi

GUATEMALA CITY, FEB. 14, 2003 ( The Supreme Court upheld the prison sentences against four men for their role in the 1998 murder of Auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi of Guatemala City.

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The high court’s decision Wednesday reversed an appeals-court ruling last October that had thrown out the prison sentences and ordered a new trial for them.

Nery Rodenas, director of the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala, expressed his satisfaction with the latest decision. His office had appealed the October ruling.

Sergeant Obdulio Villanueva, one of three military men sentenced in June 2001, was killed in a prison riot a few hours before the sentence was made known. The other two accused are retired Colonel Disrael Lima and his son, Captain Byron Lima.

A 20-year prison sentence was also upheld against Father Mario Orantes, for complicity in Bishop Gerardi’s murder. José Toledo, the priest’s lawyer, said he would appeal the court’s decision.

Bishop Gerardi, known for his defense of human rights, was killed on April 16, 1998, in the garage of his residence. Two days earlier he had published a report that blamed the army for many of the atrocities committed during the 1960-1996 civil war.

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