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Erwin Sperisen Former police chief’s murder appeal partially upheld

An artist's rendition of Erwin Sperisen during his 2014 murder trial.

(Keystone)

Erwin Sperisen, the former head of Guatemala’s national police, will be retried in Switzerland for his involvement in the killing of ten prisoners. He was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Geneva court in 2014.

The case will not lie down: after an initial failed appeal against the verdict, last year, this time Erwin Sperisen has had more success.

The Swiss Federal Court, citing “arbitrary” and “incomplete” proof, has partially upheld Sperisen’s appeal, and ordered a retrial of the dual Swiss-Guatemalan citizen. However, he will remain in prison while awaiting the next court case, it was later confirmed.

The case for which he was found guilty involved the killing of seven prisoners in Guatemala in 2006, when Sperisen was head of the country’s police forces. According to the verdict of the Geneva court, in 2014, Sperisen planned and participated in the killings, which took place during a police operation to regain control of the Pavón prison.

However, the decision handed down Wednesday by the supreme court criticised how the case was handled by the Geneva prosecutors.

They did not offer Sperisen “sufficient guarantees in light of the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights,” the Federal court said. “In particular, the right of Erwin Sperisen to confront important witnesses about determining facts was not respected.”

Also, when it came to assessing Sperisen’s role in a separate operation from 2005, in which three escaped prisoners were killed, the Federal Court noted that the Geneva authorities had relied on information that Sperisen had tortured inmates. However, “such facts did not form part of the case in question,” the court concluded in a communicationexternal link.

Long arm of the law

Sperisen, nicknamed “the Viking” for his red hair and size, moved to Geneva in 2007 following his resignation as Head of the Guatemalan police.

However, after a United Nations inquiry found that the killing of the seven prisoners in the so-called “Gavilán” operation in 2006 were not the result of clashes between prisoners and police, but rather planned extrajudicial murders, Sperisen was arrested by Swiss authorities in 2012.

Unable to be extradited, he was duly tried as a Swiss citizen, in a rare case of Swiss justice trying a defendant for crimes committed in another country.


swissinfo.ch with agencies/dos

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