A court in Guatemala has convicted former dictator Efrain Rios Montt of genocide and crimes against humanity and has sentenced him to 80 years in prison.
Judge Jazmin Barrios announced the sentence and verdict in Guatemala City on Friday. She said the former military leader’s acts “qualify as genocide.”
“The corresponding punishment must be imposed,” she added.
Fifty years of his sentence is for genocide and 30 years for war crimes.
Rios Montt had denied the charges and is expected to appeal the court’s verdict.
“I declare myself innocent,” Rios Montt told the three-judge tribunal. “It was never my intention or my goal to destroy a whole ethnic group.”
Rios Montt was found guilty of ordering the killings of 1,771 Ixil Mayans in Quiche in northern Guatemala during from 1982 to 1983, when he was the dictator of the country.
Over 200,000 Guatemalan people were killed in the Guatemalan Civil War of 1960 to 1996, which pitted the right-wing government of Guatemala against various leftist rebel groups, mainly backed by Mayan indigenous people.
Most of the victims of the war were indigenous people.
“The Ixils were considered public enemies of the state and were also victims of racism, considered an inferior race,” Judge Barrios said.
“The violent acts against the Ixils were not spontaneous. They were planned beforehand,” she added.
In September 2011, Judge Carol Patricia Flores accused Rios Montt of genocide but could not prosecute him because he had immunity from prosecution as a congressman.
In January 2012, Rios Montt’s term as a congressman ended. Finally, he was brought to trial, and on May 10, 2013 Rios Montt was found guilty of genocide.
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