GUATEMALA CITY – A Guatemalan appellate court overturned a decision to grant parole to retired army Col. Byron Disrael Lima Estrada, serving a 20 year sentence for the 1998 assassination of Catholic Bishop Juan Gerardi.
Presiding Judge Carlos Contreras said the ruling was reversed due to irregularities in the reports Lima Estrada submitted to secure his release for good behavior.
The irregularities were detected in reports related to a work-and-study program that Lima Estrada supposedly carried out while at the Military Medical Center – a prerequisite for requesting a sentence reduction, Contreras said.
The human rights office of the Guatemala City Archdiocese stated last week that Lima Estrada had been spent two years at the medical center due to alleged “serious health problems” and therefore was unable to perform legally required social work.
A lower court had granted parole on March 16 for good behavior, but that ruling was appealed by the Attorney General’s Office. According to Contreras, the appellate ruling states that Lima Estrada must remain in prison.
Lima Estrada and his son, Capt. Byron Lima Oliva, were arrested on Jan. 22, 2000, for the murder of Gerardi and were given 20 years behind bars in 2001, a sentence that was upheld on appeal.
Lima Oliva also has petitioned for early release for good behavior but the courts have not yet ruled on his request, while Rev. Mario Orantes, sentenced as an accomplice to Gerardi’s murder, was denied parole last August.
The coordinator of the Culture of Peace division of the archdiocese’s human rights office, Carlos Alarcon, called the appellate court’s decision to block parole for Lima Estrada “satisfactory.”
Gerardi, 75, was found beaten to death in the garage of the rectory where he lived just two days after a commission he headed released a report documenting 55,000 human rights violations during Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war, most of them committed by the army. EFE