Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Genocide Trial Turning Point--Final Arguments

 "Time's Up"

The courtroom filled quickly once word spread the judge called for summations.
After three weeks in which the Guatemala genocide trial threatened daily to crash and burn with pleas before parallel courts, a cascade of motions and a sudden defense table illness, closing arguments began today.  Judge Jazmín Barrios, noting that the defense continued to fail to present its final witnesses despite multiple requests to do so, said, in effect: "Time's up."
Ixil women lean forward as Judge Barrios announces final arguments will begin.
       Lead prosecutor Orlando Lopez from the Public Ministry, spoke for more than two hours in the afternoon, beginning a series of summations by placing former head of state Gen. Efraín Rios Montt at the head of a chain of command in 1982-83 when the army declared Ixil Maya the "internal enemy" and killed hundreds of unarmed men, women, and -- the majority of those documented in the present case -- children under age twelve. The process, called here "The Trial of the Century," is on its way to a proper end, no matter what the verdict, instead of dying of suffocation under what the bench itself called a blanket of "delaying tactics" by the defense.
The Prosecution used bar graphs, pie charts and diagrams to illustrate final arguments

       This development had been not at all clear at the beginning of the day.
     In a jaw-dropping demonstration of abuse, Ríos Montt's attorney Francisco Garcia Gudiel called judges "delinquents," questioned their intelligence, their preparation for the bench and the quality of principles by which they lived "from the cradle." He waved documents, addressed the audience instead of the bench, and pointed a menacing finger at judges.  "I will not rest until I see you in jail," he said.
     "We do not accept threats," said Tribunal President Jazmín Barrios.

      Yesterday Garcia called in sick, forcing Judge Barrios to delay the trial for 24 hours.  Today the prosecution showed security camera photos of Garcia at another court building at midday.  Garcia had suffered an attack of kidney stones "more painful than childbirth," he said, but by midday was feeling better.  When it was clear this afternoon that Judge Barrios was proceeding to summations, Garcia moved to have them delayed another day because he was "feeling very ill right now."  The judge said no.  Final arguments are expected to continue.
     Tonight at the old, central hotel where I stay, Ixiles are arriving from the highlands, sitting down to eat plates of spaghetti and beans, preparing for the court session tomorrow.  "Some thought the trial would not succeed, not with all the appeals and delays," said one survivor, Antonio Cabo Cabo.  "But I always knew we would go forward."
Man of the Hour, Prosecutor Orlando Lopez leaving court.