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Guatemala judge steps down in ex-dictator's genocide case, citing removal request by defense
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) ' A Guatemalan judge overseeing the genocide case of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt stepped down Tuesday, accepting a defense request.
Judge Carol Patricia Flores made the announcement just before a hearing at which she was to decide whether to drop charges against Rios Montt because of an amnesty law.
The removal stemmed from a complaint filed in November by defense lawyers of a general also involved in the case who accused the judge of being biased.
Rios Montt ruled Guatemala in 1982-83 after a military coup. He is accused in 1,771 deaths, 1,400 human rights violations and the displacement of 29,000 indigenous Guatemalans.
New judge Miguel Angel Galvez postponed Tuesday's hearing until March.
Galvez said the decisions that Flores already made, which as charging Rios Montt with genocide and crimes against humanity, remain in place.
The defense lawyer for Rios Montt complained in late January that Flores violated due process by charging the former dictator before hearing his testimony. Rios Montt was supposed to testify in a hearing but refused to respond to questions.
It's the first time a Latin American court has charged a former president with genocide.
The case also involves retired generals Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez and Hector Mario Lopez Fuentes, the army chief of staff under Rios Montt. Both men are in their 80s and contend poor health has kept them from court proceedings.
The defense request that Flores step down was filed by a lawyer for Lopez Fuentes.