Friday, September 23, 2016

 

Guatemala:prominent human rights prosecutor arrested

Orlando López has investigated some of the worst crimes committed during Guatemala’s bloody civil war and arrested powerful former military commanders for torture, genocide and forced disappearances.

But the efforts of the senior human rights prosecutor have not gone unnoticed by rightwing groups who claim he is spearheading a leftist conspiracy against the armed forces.

Now, López, 41, has been detained on homicide charges linked to an alleged hit-and-run accident, which his supporters say is part of a wave of malicious litigation against advocates seeking justice over civil war crimes.

The alleged traffic incident was reported by the Foundation against Terrorism, a rightwing group linked to retired military generals, which in recent years has accused dozens of senior judges, prosecutors and human rights activists of crimes including corruption, intimidation and links to organised crime.

“I know that I am here because of the work I have done, it has nothing to do with the traffic incident, this is just an excuse to target me,” López told the Guardian, while waiting handcuffed in Guatemala City criminal court.

López was lead prosecutor in the 2013 genocide trial against former military dictator Efrain Rios Montt, and in the arrest earlier this year of 18 former army generals for multiple forced disappearances.

Since 2014, the Foundation has lodged five sets of criminal accusations against López, which include at least 35 alleged crimes.

The most recent incident occurred when López was driving back to Guatemala City in July with his security detail. The car hit something or someone around 10.30pm in the state of Zacapa, a region well known for drug trafficking and organised crime.

He was advised not to stop by his head of security.

“My job is to protect his [López’s] physical safety. Based on where we were, the time of night and the threats he has received since I started working with him three years and seven months ago, it was my decision that we should not stop,” said Ever Fuentes, 29, who was also arrested on Thursday along with the other two bodyguards.

A man in his 40s died that night, but it is not clear how or when. In an official testimony, the victim’s brother said the pair had been drinking heavily that evening, and that his brother had previously been knocked down while drunk. Witnesses reported the involvement of another vehicle.

López reported the incident to his seniors in the Public Ministry.

The information was leaked to the Foundation against Terrorism. Its director, Ricardo Méndez Ruiz, said he reported the incident as a crime to the Public Ministry as a civic duty.

Méndez Ruiz has also filed allegations against Miguel Gálvez – the judge overseeing the investigation of a multimillion dollar customs fraud allegedly masterminded by former president Otto Pérez Molina and his deputy Roxana Baldetti – and Yassmin Barrios, the lead judge in several genocide and sexual slavery trials.

“We’re bringing a small wave of lawsuits to counteract an enormous wave of lawsuits being brought by the extreme left against our soldiers who fought in the internal armed conflict against a Marxist invasion, and against the private sector which obstructs economic development in our country,” Méndez Ruiz told the Press.

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