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Guatemala begins process to replace top prosecutor

Monday - 2/10/2014, 8:18pm  ET

Human rights activist Iduvina Hernandez shouts slogan in support of Guatemala's Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz during a protest in front of Congress in Guatemala City, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. Human rights groups in Guatemala are protesting the Supreme Court's decision to oust the country's crusading attorney general seven months before her term was set to end. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- Guatemala's Congress formed a commission Monday to pick a replacement to take over from the country's crusading attorney general in May despite demands from human rights groups to keep her until December.

The commission was formed after 94 of 158 lawmakers voted in favor of replacing Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz.

Guatemala's Supreme Court ruled last week in favor of lawyer and businessman Ricardo Sagastume, who argued that Paz's four-year term technically began in May 2010, when the official she replaced was appointed, and not in December 2010, when she took the post.

The decision was condemned by human rights groups that protested outside Congress on Monday.

Paz's highest profile case has been the trial of former dictator Gen. Efrain Rios Montt for his alleged role in massacres during Guatemala's civil war. She also has charged three other civil war-era generals with crimes against humanity and genocide after their cases had been stalled for decades, but only one of them has been brought to trial.

Sagastume is a former director of Guatemala's Industry Chamber and was a member of the National Convergence Front Party, which was founded by active and former military officials. His father was the Supreme Court's president during Rios Montt's government.

Paz wouldn't comment on whether she thought political reasons might be behind her ouster.

"The magistrates have to interpret laws according to their values and criteria and according to what the Constitution says and they can't act based on other types of influences," Paz said.


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