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Guatemala court annuls Bishop Gerardi murder verdict

A court of appeals in Guatemala has overturned the convictions of four men linked to the murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi in 1998 and ordered a new trial.

Three army officers and a priest were sentenced last year to between 20 and 30 years in prison for the killing of the bishop, a renowned human rights campaigner.

Gerardi was killed after releasing a damaging report into wartime crimes But on Tuesday, a judge accepted an appeal by the defence saying the first trial was flawed because of irregularities in the testimony of a key witness.

That trial had been seen as a test of Guatemala's justice system by human rights activists, who believed the murder was carried out on the highest orders.

Bishop Gerardi, head of the church's human rights office, was bludgeoned to death in April 1998, days after presenting a report blaming the military for almost all the atrocities committed during Guatemala's 36-year civil war.


New twist in the case of murdered bishop (30/9/02)
Catholic Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi (Amnesty International USA)

10 Oct 2002