11 May 2013

Former Guatemala leader found guilty

12:31 pm on 11 May 2013

A court in Guatemala has found former military leader Efrain Rios Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity.

A tribunal of three judges on Friday sentenced him to 80 years in prison.

Former General Rios Montt, 86, was convicted of ordering the deaths of 1771 people of the Ixil Maya ethnic group during his time in office in 1982 - 1983.

He denied the charges, saying he neither knew of nor ordered the massacres while in power.

The BBC reports he is expected to appeal against the court's decision.

Former military intelligence chief, General Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez, who was also on trial, was acquitted.

It is the first time a former head of state had been found guilty of genocide by a court in his or her own country.

Other genocide convictions have been handed down by international courts.

Relatives and indigenous leaders cheered when the sentence was read by Judge Jazmin Barrios in Guatemala City.

Rios Montt was sentenced to 50 years for genocide and 30 years for crimes against humanity.

An estimated 200,000 people were killed in Guatemala's 1960-1996 civil war, the majority of them indigenous Mayans.

Prosecutors said Rios Montt turned a blind eye as soldiers used rape, torture and arson against those suspected of supporting the rebels.