Efrain Rios Montt: Guatemala dictator faces second genocide trial


Retired General and former de facto President Jose Efrain Rios Montt is seen in a court in Guatemala City on January 26, 2012, during a hearing for a case for human rights abuses committed during the 36-year civil war.


Jose Miguel Lam

Guatemala's former military leader Efrain Rios Montt, 85, is facing a second genocide trial for the massacre of 201 villagers in 1982.

Rios Montt had already been charged in January on separate counts of genocide and crimes against humanity, reported BBC News. The latest trial relates to the killings at Dos Erres, said to be one of the most brutal occurrences during the country's 36-year civil war.

In 1982, a group of about 20 soldiers was ordered to search the village for weapons, according to Reuters. The soldiers then blindfolded, strangled, shot and bludgeoned the villagers — including a newborn child — to death with a sledgehammer and dumped them in a well.

More from GlobalPost: Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt charged with genocide

Judge Patricia Flores ruled on Monday there was sufficient evident to try Rios Montt in connection with the massacre, leading to applause from the victims' relatives and human rights activists in the courtroom, said BBC. The former leader told the hearing he was innocent.

Rios Montt came into power after a 1982 military coup. According to the Los Angeles Times, his troops were responsible for a "scorched earth" policy that wiped out hundreds of villagers during his 17-month rule. For many years, Guatemalans thought Rios Montt was untouchable, as he evaded courts and manipulated government power.