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Rios Montt Guilty of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity

José Efraín Ríos Montt inside the courtroom where he was tried and convicted for genocide and crimes against humanity. Photo by Xeni Jardin.

A Guatemalan court found José Efraín Ríos Montt guilty on Friday of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 80 years in prison. That was confirmed by Boing Boing’s Xeni Jardin, reporting from the courtroom in Guatemala City, where she’s been following the trial for her website and for the PBS NewsHour. It was the first time a former head of state has been found guilty of genocide in his or her own country, according to the Associated Press.

Ríos Montt ruled Guatemala from 1982 to 1983 during the most violent period of the country’s 36-year civil war. The 86-year-old former general was sentenced to 50 years in prison for genocide and additional 30 for crimes against humanity. He was responsible for massacres that killed thousands of Ixil Mayans during that time.

Judge Yasmin Barrios, who has presided over the trial, said Ríos Montt knew exactly what he was doing and did nothing to stop it, according to Jardin. The judge also said that the court was completely convinced that the intent to commit genocide had been proven, according to her tweets.

Minutes ago Jardin tweeted the news from the courtroom:

Jardin has been capturing the drama in the courtroom that included shouts from the defense attorney and pleas from the judge to keep order. Celebration and cries of “Justice” from onlookers overwhelmed the proceedings.

Jardin was co-producer on a NewsHour piece by Science Correspondent Miles O’Brien that aired this week on the key role that science and forensics played in the trial. That involved analyzing bodies unearthed from graves and DNA of skeletons buried en masse during the war and studying satellite data of the countryside during the bloody regime. Watch the full report here:

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