France lodges charges against Guatemala ex-president

France lodges charges against Guatemala ex-president, soldiers to be tried for massacre
By The Associated Press (CP)

GUATEMALA CITY — France has accused former Guatemalan president Alfonso Portillo of money-laundering and he also faces embezzlement charges in Guatemala, prosecutors said.

Anti-corruption prosecutor Francisco Sandoval said Wednesday that the French government asked Portillo to testify, but the former leader refused. France claims Portillo laundered $1.5 million through French accounts using relatives' names. France has frozen 491,000 euros in accounts allegedly linked to Portillo.
Portillo is also accused of he stealing $15 million from the Guatemalan defence department. His trial on the Guatemalan charges is set to begin in September.

Portillo defence lawyer Telesforo Guerra said Portillo was within his rights not to testify.
Portillo was president from 2000 to 2004. He was charged with corruption in 2008, but was freed on bail. He was re-arrested Jan. 26 on an extradition request from the United States, where he is charged in New York federal court with embezzling $1.5 million in foreign donations intended to buy school library books in Guatemala.

Under Guatemalan law, Portillo must first be tried at home before being extradited.
Also on Wednesday, prosecutors announced that three former soldiers will stand trial for allegedly participating in the massacre of 250 people in 1982, as part of a counterinsurgency campaign during the country's 1960-1996 civil war.
Judge Carol Patricia Flores said there is "sufficient evidence" to hold the men over for trial.
Prosecutors say the men were part of a unit that killed men, women and children at the Dos Erres village while looking for rifles stolen by guerrillas. Later 162 skeletal remains were found in a village well.
The three ex-soldiers have said they are innocent.

The massacre was one of hundreds that occurred during the civil war, which ended in peace agreements in 1996. Some 240,000 people, mostly Mayan Indians, vanished or died.
Also Wednesday, Guatemalan authorities announced that a couple had died Wednesday when a landslide buried their house in western Guatemala, bring the death toll from mudslides over the last five days to 48.

Source: Canadian Press