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Ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt convicted of genocide in Guatemala

An Ixil Indian woman, the relative of a civil war victim, uses earphones to hear translations between Spanish and the Ixil language during the genocide trial of former dictator Jose Efrain Rios Montt in Guatemala City, Thursday, May 9, 2013. The 86-year-old ex-general says he never ordered attacks against "a race,"denying he ordered the extermination of Ixil Mayas. Prosecutors say that while in power, Rios Montt was aware of, and thus responsible for, the slaughter of at least 1,771 Ixil Mayas in the towns of San Juan Cotzal, San Gaspar Chajul and Santa Maria Nebaj in Guatemala's western highlands. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

GUATEMALA CITY – A Guatemalan court has convicted former dictator Efrain Rios Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, sentencing him to 80 years in prison.

The 86-year-old former general is the first former Latin American leader ever found guilty of such a charge.

A three-judge tribunal issued the verdict after the nearly two-month trial in which dozens of victims testified about horrific atrocities.

Prosecutors said Rios Montt must have had knowledge of the massacres of Mayan Indians when he ruled Guatemala from March 1982 to August 1983 at the height of the country’s 36-year civil war.

Rios Montt said he never knew of or ordered the massacres while in power.

The war between the government and leftist rebels cost more than 200,000 lives and ended in peace accords in 1996.

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