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Former  Guatemalan Dictator Under House Arrest - 2004-05-13

In what is being called an unprecedented ruling, a Guatelaman appeals court judge ordered house arrest Thursday for former military dictator, retired General Efrain Rios Montt.

Efrain Rios Montt will not be able to leave his residence until he goes to trial on manslaughter charges. The charges stem from violent protests that took place in Guatemala City in July during in which a journalist Hector Ramirez died of a heart attack as he ran from an angry mob.

Mr. Rios Montt has been accused of inciting the mobs which terrorized the city demanding the courts allow him to run for president.

At the time, Mr. Rios Montt was the president of Guatemala's congress. Soon after the riots, courts gave him the green light to run, despite a constitutional ban on former dictators running for president. He lost the November elections to the pro-business candidate Oscar Berger.

Since he no longer holds public office, Mr. Rios Montt has lost the immunity from prosecution that all legislators enjoy, opening up the possibility he could stand trial for manslaughter and other rights abuses during his rule in the early 1980s.

Mr. Rios Montt was not available for comment.

Since taking the office in January, President Oscar Berger has launched a new campaign to root out corrupted officials, including loyalists of former dictator Rios Montt.