DAILY CATHOLIC     THURSDAY     July 30, 1998     vol. 9, no. 148

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          GUATEMALA CITY (CWNews.com) - The Guatemalan Justice Ministry announced on Monday that it has opened legal proceedings against Father Mario Orantes Najera as the main suspect in the murder against Auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera.

          The priest, together with the bishop's cook, Margarita Lopez, were taken into custody on July 22 upon the request of the Attorney General. The courts accepted the case prepared by the Attorney General's office, which accuses Father Orantes of murdering Bishop Gerardi and Lopez of covering it up.

          Ronalth Ochaeta, head of the Archdiocese's Office for Human Rights (ODHA), admitted the facts are consistent with the government's case against Father Orantes. Previously Ochaeta had advanced the theory that Bishop Gerardi was murdered by death squad in retaliation for a report critical of the army for human rights abuses during the country's 36-year-long civil war. In an interview with the Prensa Libre newspaper, Ochaeta said: "The evidence presented ... is consistent .... I do not pretend to judge [Father Orantes] in advance, but the evidence is decisive and there was no way to avoid opening the case against him."

          Ochaeta admitted that several elements pointed to Father Orantes from the beginning, "but since the murder occurred only 54 hours after Bishop Gerardi presented the report on human rights violations in the country, we made the presupposition of a political murder and therefore launched the investigation in that direction."

          Meanwhile, Archbishop Prospero Penados del Barrio of Guatemala City has requested ODHA to remain silent on the case as requested by the Attorney General for the next 10 days in order to avoid speculations that may distort the case. "We are interested in finding the truth about the murder of Bishop Gerardi, no matter what the price or the consequences," the archbishop said.

Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

July 30, 1998       volume 9, no. 148


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