GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemala’s government arrested former prosecutor Orlando Salvador López on abuse-of-authority charges Thursday, the latest in a series of detentions seen as weakening anti-corruption efforts in the country.
López was best known for having brought to trial late dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt in 2013 for genocide committed against Indigenous Guatemalans during the country’s 1960-1996 civil war. Ríos Montt was convicted and sentenced to 80 years, but the verdict was overturned on appeal.
López’s arrest, announced Thursday, was the most recent in a series of prosecutions of former prosecutors and investigators by the President Alejandro Giammattei.
The public prosecutor’s office claims López did work as a notary public and lawyer in 2019 at a time when he was employed as a prosecutor, something that is not allowed in Guatemala.
The U.S. government has sharply criticized the weakening of anti-corruption efforts in Guatemala under Giammattei.
Some 30 judges, magistrates and prosecutors involved in the investigation or processing of those corruption cases have been forced to flee the country after facing legal action from the current administration.
Juan Pappier, the acting deputy director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch, said the arrest of López was a serious affront.
“His arrest is part of a pattern of prosecution against prosecutors and judges who investigated corruption and human rights abuses in the country,” Pappier said.
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