By Tim Johnson
In a packed courtroom in Guatemala City, Judge Yassmin Barrios said investigators had proven that the regime led by Rios Montt, who is 86, used starvation, mass homicide, dislocation, rape and aerial bombardment as tactics to exterminate the Ixil minority, which it believed to harbor leftist guerrillas.
Barrios gave Rios Montt a 50-year jail term for genocide and an additional 30 years for crimes against humanity.
When Barrios read the sentence, cheers erupted in the courtroom, a sign of the high emotions surrounding the trial, which deeply divided Guatemala and drew attention in other Latin American nations with a history of military dictatorships.
The conviction marked the first time a former Guatemalan military strongman known for “scorched earth” tactics to eradicate leftist guerrillas had been found guilty of genocide and ordered to prison.
“The accused, Jose Efrain Rios Montt, had full knowledge of all that was occurring and did nothing to stop it,” Barrios said.
By Sonia Perez Diaz
It was the state's first official acknowledgment that genocide occurred during the bloody, 36-year civil war, something the current president, retired Gen. Otto Perez Molina, has denied.
"He knew about everything that was going on and he did not stop it, despite having the power to stop it from being carried out," said Presiding Judge Yassmin Barrios. "Rios Montt is guilty of genocide."
The 86-year-old former general laughed, talked to his lawyers and listened to the procedures through headphones. When the guilty verdict was announced, the crowded courtroom erupted in cheers. Some women who lost relatives in the massacres wept.
"Judge, Judge! Restore order!" Rios Montt shouted as cameramen and photographers swarmed him after the verdict was announced.
A three-judge tribunal issued the verdict after the nearly two-month trial in which dozens of victims testified about mass rapes and the killings of women and children and other atrocities.
By Associated Press
It was a steep fall for the now-86-year-old former strongman who ruled Guatemala from March 1982 to August 1983, during the height of a brutal civil war that killed 200,000 people, mainly Indians.
A tribunal on Friday ruled that Rios Montt knew about the slaughter of at least 1,771 Ixil Maya in Guatemala’s western highlands and didn’t stop it, handing down the first genocide conviction ever given to a Latin American strongman in his own country.
The former general was transferred to prison later that evening.
“He is not comfortable, but as a good soldier he is used to this,” said Rios Montt’s lawyer, Francisco Palomo, who is expected to seek to have the ex-general transferred to a hospital or to have his sentence be served under house arrest.
Matamoros prison, where Rios Montt is now behind bars, is located on a military base in Guatemala City where the former general spent time as a young cadet. It was built to house high-profile inmates who could be unsafe in normal prisons.