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  HOME | Central America

Ex-Interior Minister of Guatemala Could Be Tried in Spain

GUATEMALA CITY – Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Carlos Vielman, arrested earlier this week in Spain for the crimes of extrajudicial execution and conspiracy, could go on trial in this European country if the request for his extradition to Guatemala should fail, a judicial official said Saturday.

The head of the U.N.-sponsored International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, or Cicig, the Costa Rican Francisco Dall’Anesse, suggested such a possibility in a recent telephone conversation with representatives of Spain’s National Court.

Dall’Anesse requested information on Vielman’s capture and in the phone conversation said that he could be tried in Spain, the Cicig spokesman Diego Alvarez told Efe on Saturday.

He said, however, that this is not an official Cicig position and that it is the Guatemalan courts, through the Foreign Ministry, that must take the legal steps in the case.

Vielman, who is a stepbrother of the current vice president of Guatemala, Rafael Espada, and has Spanish nationality, is accused of conspiring to create a criminal structure within his ministry and Guatemala’s national police during the first year of the 2004-2008 administration of conservative President Oscar Berger.

The case against Vielman and other senior officials centers on the extrajudicial execution – murder – of seven inmates on Sept. 25, 2006 at the Pavon prison farm.

The men were executed in an operation dubbed “Pavo Real” (Peacock), a joint military-police operation to wrest control of Pavon away from inmate gangs, an occasion investigators say the conspirators used to eliminate criminal rivals being held at the prison farm.

Guatemala has 40 days to provide Spain’s National Court with documentation supporting its request for Vielman’s extradition.

In a statement published Saturday in the local daily Prensa Libre, ex-President Berger and Eduardo Stein, who was his vice president, said that Cicig has manipulated the case against ex-officials of his government.

“Those of us who were part of the previous government were extremely puzzled that in the initial communique on the arrest, an ambiguous kind of reporting was used that confused the terms of the operation carried out by security forces,” the daily said, attributing the statement to the ex-head of state and his vice president.

Berger and Stein, it said, say that the accusations are made without proof to sustain such an implication and ignore the principle of innocent until proven guilty.

On Thursday, in an article published in local dailies and datelined Madrid, Vielman said that he is the victim of political persecution.

“This is a new act for political and media ends bent on revenge, in violation of my right to be presumed innocent and to have a legitimate defense,” he said.

In the newspaper, Vielman rejected the accusations against him and said that the purpose of his arrest “is to promote the criminal prosecution of a group of ex-officials who won back the biggest jails in the country from being centers of criminal operations against the public.”

“I’m at the disposal of the courts where I will resolve my legal situation and clear my good name, in the certainty that I have never committed any crime,” he said.

Accused along with Vielman are former national police chief Erwin Sperisen and erstwhile deputy director of investigations Javier Figueroa.

Figueroa, who left Guatemala in March 2007, is reported living in Austria, while Sperisen departed in April 2008 to settle in Sweden. Guatemalan authorities have asked Interpol to aid in apprehending the fugitive former officials.

Seven other defendants are already in custody in the Central American country, including Alejandro Giammattei, who ran for president in the 2007 elections.

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