Guatemala high court lifts immunity of presidential adviser

By The Associated Press | Posted - Mar. 15, 2017 at 4:26 p.m.

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GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemala's Supreme Court on Wednesday granted a request by prosecutors to lift the immunity of Edgar Justino Ovalle, a lawmaker and adviser to President Jimmy Morales.

Ovalle is a former military officer accused of participating in rights abuses during the 1960-1996 civil war. He is now a member of Congress, which gave him immunity from prosecution.

Court spokesman Angel Pineda said the unanimous ruling stripped Ovalle of his congressional immunity and opens the way to try him on suspicion of murder, forced disappearance and crimes against humanity.

Ovalle has not attended congressional sessions for over a month and his whereabouts are not clear.

The complaint against him was presented in January 2016, but his lawyers had prevented it from moving forward until now.

Ovalle has been linked to the kidnapping of multiple people in 1983 and 1984, when he was second in command of a military zone in Coban, north of Guatemala City. The victims were later killed and buried in clandestine graves on a military base. More than 500 human remains have been found in the area.

Aura Elena Farfan, president of the Association of Detained and Disappeared Family Members of Guatemala, praised Wednesday's ruling.

"For us as relatives, it is encouraging," said Farfan, who is a plaintiff in the case. "It gives us hope and strength and we hope due process is followed."

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