Guatemala’s Spanish embassy ‘killer’ on trial

A former Guatemalan police chief went on trial on Wednesday accused of ordering a 1980 Spanish embassy fire that killed 37 people, including the father of Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú.

Guatemala's Spanish embassy 'killer' on trial
Pedro Garcia Arredondo, the sole defendant, is accused of murder, attempted murder and crimes against humanity. Photo: Johan Ordoñez/AFP

The fire was set by police and military trying to remove a group of indigenous farmers, peasants and university students who took over the mission to denounce repression by the armed forces during Guatemala's civil war, which began in 1960 and ended in 1996.

Pedro Garcia Arredondo, the sole defendant, is accused of murder, attempted murder and crimes against humanity.

Some 200 people, many of them victims' relatives, turned out for the Guatemala City trial, including Menchú, the 1992 Nobel laureate.

"We hope that the courts operate under the law and that the judges are not pressured," Menchú told AFP.

"We want to finally close the cycle of pain, of our suffering. This load is painful," she said.

An Indian priestess and Menchú carried out a Mayan ceremony in front of the court before the trial, calling for a good start to the proceedings and for justice to be done after more than 34 years.

The Spanish ambassador to Guatemala, Manuel Lejarreta, told AFP that his government was not a plaintiff in the case but "is interested in how it goes."

He said he was confident that the Guatemalan courts can get to the bottom of the burning of the embassy, which killed four Spanish diplomats including the consul.

Around 200,000 people died during the Guatemalan civil war, according to the UN.

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One dead, one missing as Spanish fishing boat sinks near Argentina

One person has died and another is missing after a Spanish fishing vessel sank off Argentina on Wednesday (July 11), but 25 crew members have been rescued, the Argentine Navy said.

One dead, one missing as Spanish fishing boat sinks near Argentina
Photos: Handout pictures released by the Argentine Navy shows Spanish fishing vessel "Dorneda"

The crew of the Dornera were found at dawn in two rafts and a small boat, 308 nautical miles off Argentina's Patagonian coast, the Navy said in a statement.

Most of the crew are Spanish but there are also Moroccans, Peruvians and Indonesians amongst them, spokesman Enrique Balbi said.

The 25 survivors and dead sailor are aboard an Argentine fishing boat heading back to dry land and expected to arrive in Patagonia in around two days, Balbi told AFP.

To reach there, the Argentine boat must negotiate 570 kilometres of open water through a South Atlantic storm in the middle of winter, said Balbi.

The Dornera is believed to have capsized after being inundated by “a lot of water down the stern ramp where the fish nets are pulled up,” according to Balbi.

“The water entered the engine room and caused a power cut,” he said. “That made the boat uncontrollable in a storm.”

“Realizing a shipwreck was inevitable, the crew abandoned ship.” Balbi added: “At this time of year, adverse conditions created by low pressure generate a lot of wind and big waves. This can happen to any boat when there are big waves.”

Spain picked up a distress beacon and alerted the Argentine Navy, which sent out two fishing vessels to locate the sailors.

Balbi said the boat, owned by Spanish seafood company Freiremar, was fishing in international waters but that “it's still our search and rescue area”.

Two aircraft have been sent to Patagonia to help in the search and rescue operation for the missing sailor.