GUATEMALA CITY – One of the attorneys who represented former dictator Efrain Rios Montt at his trial for genocide was slain Wednesday in the Guatemalan capital.
Francisco Jose Palomo Tejeda, 63, was shot while driving his luxury car about 5 kilometers (3 miles) south of downtown Guatemala City, fire rescue spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters.
The shooter was traveling on a motorcycle, according to witness accounts cited by the media.
Among the family members, colleagues and friends who gathered at the crime scene was Rios Montt’s daughter, Zury, who is seeking the presidency in September’s elections.
Palomo Tejeda, a high-powered lawyer who also defended former President Alfonso Portillo on corruption charges, spent 12 years as an alternate judge on Guatemala’s Constitutional Court.
The slain attorney was part of the defense team for Rios Montt’s trial two years ago for the deaths of 1,771 Ixil Indians between March 1982 and August 1983.
The octogenarian Rios Montt, whose time in power stood out as an especially bloody phase of Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war, was convicted and sentenced to 80 years in prison.
Within days, the Constitutional Court intervened to overturn the verdict and order a new trial, which is still pending.
Guatemala’s interior minister, Eunice Mendizabal, said Wednesday at the scene of the murder that she would name an “elite” team to investigate the crime and track down the perpetrators.
The 2013 trial of Rios Montt marked the first time any Guatemalan ruler was called to account for the massacres and atrocities of a conflict that claimed more than 200,000 lives, most of them Indian peasants slaughtered by the army and its paramilitary allies.