Lawyer for former Guatemalan dictator shot dead in capital

Jun 3, 2015, 5:06 PM
In this May 10, 2013 photo, Guatemalan lawyer Francisco Palomo, left, listens to his client the for...
In this May 10, 2013 photo, Guatemalan lawyer Francisco Palomo, left, listens to his client the former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, at a court room in Guatemala City. Palomo was shot multiple times while driving through a residential neighborhood of Guatemala City around midday Wednesday, June 3, 2015,according to a report of the Firefighters. Palomo defended Rios Montt in his 2013 trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
(AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The lawyer representing former dictator Efrain Rios Montt against genocide charges was shot to death while driving in Guatemala’s capital Wednesday.

Francisco Palomo was shot at least 12 times in the chest and face in a residential and commercial neighborhood of Guatemala City around midday, firefighters’ spokesman Raul Hernandez said.

“The victim, still alive, tried to flee the attack and drove a few meters before crashing into a tree,” Hernandez said. “His body remained inside the vehicle.”

He said early reports from witnesses and family members indicated that two unidentified men on a motorcycle attacked the lawyer.

There was no indication of any motive for the killing.

Police cordoned off the scene with yellow tape as investigators interviewed witnesses and examined a black Audi sedan with the driver-side window blown out.

Palomo’s wife, children and colleagues, along with Rios Montt’s daughter Zury Rios, comforted each other.

Palomo, 63, was a former judge on the Constitutional Court and a longtime friend of Rios Montt.

He defended the former dictator in his legal battle against charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for the death of 1,771 indigenous Guatemalans at the hands of security forces during Rios Montt’s 1982-83 regime.

Rios Montt was sentenced to 80 years in prison in 2013, but that conviction was overturned 10 days later and a new trial ordered.

A retrial scheduled for this past January was delayed indefinitely after Palomo and others on the defense team won a motion to have one of the three judges hearing the case recuse herself.

A specialist in criminal law, Palomo also represented former Interior Minister Carlos Vielmann, who faces a legal case in Spain accusing him of extrajudicial killings in Guatemala.

Guatemala has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, at 34 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to U.N. figures.

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Lawyer for former Guatemalan dictator shot dead in capital