Swiss-Guatemalan ex-police chief urges parliament to intervene

Sperisen (left) and his lawyer waiting outside the entrance to the Swiss parliament building where they handed in the letter. Keystone/Peter Klaunzer

Erwin Sperisen, the former head of Guatemala’s police force, has called on the Swiss authorities to speed up legal proceedings against him. 

This content was published on November 13, 2019 - 13:25

On Wednesday, Sperisen handed in a letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives in Bern, requesting that parliament put pressure on the judiciary to decide on his appeal by the end of the year.

Sperisen is appealing against a 15-year prison sentence for his alleged complicity in the killing of seven prisoners in Guatemala in 2006. 

The four-page letter specifies that Sperisen, who lives under house arrest, has been waiting for a decision for more than two years, following five years of pre-trial detention in Switzerland. 

“The Federal Court doesn’t try any more to justify the delay, which is difficult anyway, as it has in-depth knowledge of my case,” Sperisen says. “There is no reason why the Federal Court can’t decide after three years of examination.” 

He says a planned replacement of three judges to the case risks drawing out the legal procedure even further.  

Protracted procedure 

Sperisen, who claims his innocence in the murders, was initially sentenced to life in prison by a Geneva court for the crimes committed as head of the Guatemalan police force. 

The legal proceedings have taken place in Switzerland because that is where he has lived since 2007, and the country does not extradite its citizens. The case is a rare example of Swiss justice trying a defendant for crimes committed in another country. 

Guatemala issued an international arrest warrant for Sperisen in 2010 and a year later, he was detained in Geneva. 

In 2017, the Federal Court annulled a verdict by the Geneva court, which handed down and confirmed the life sentence in 2014 and 2015 respectively. 

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