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Guatemalan church rejects offer to drop priest's murder charge

    The Guatemalan church refused a government offer to drop the murder charge against a priest in the 1998 killing of his bishop if the church agreed to stop pointing the finger at the army.
    Giving evidence at the end of the first week of the murder trial of five people -- including three military officers -- accused of the killing, Auxiliary Bishop Mario Rios Montt of Guatemala City said last week that the government offer was made by Antonio Arzu, brother of the then-president, Alvaro Arzu.
    Bishop Rios told the panel of three judges that Antonio Arzu said that if the human rights office of the archdiocese, which Bishop Rios heads, desisted in its accusation against the government and military, he could arrange the release of Father Mario Orantes, a diocesan priest who lived with the late bishop. The church rejected the proposition, Bishop Rios said.