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Former Guatemala police chief to face Geneva court

Erwin Sperisen on the job in Guatemala in 2006 Keystone

The former head of Guatemala’s national police, Erwin Sperisen, will go on trial on Geneva for a series of extrajudicial killings that occurred during his term in office from July 2004 to March 2007.

Sperisen, who has Swiss and Guatemalan citizenship, “stands accused of having planned, ordered or committed the murders of ten prisoners in Guatemala,” the Geneva prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Friday.

This included the shooting of seven prisoners in September 2006, after which Sperisen asked his subordinates to make it seem as if the detainees had clashed with police before they were shot.

According to the prosecutor’s office, Sperisen, because of his rank, played a decisive role in the killings. In one case, he allegedly carried out one of the executions himself.

Sperisen is also believed to have ordered the executions of three prisoners who attempted to escape from a prison centre in November and December 2005, with the scene altered as well to make it look like there had been a shoot-out with the police.

The accused is considered by the prosecutor to be guilty of murder according to the statement.

Sperisen was arrested on August 31, 2012, while he was living in Geneva. Since then, he has been questioned 11 times by investigators, always denying any involvement in the deaths of the prisoners.

Fourteen witnesses made the trip to Geneva from France, Guatemala and Spain to give evidence, while further elements were collected from abroad.

The prosecutor is expected to demand a prison sentence of more than ten years.

Because Switzerland does not extradite its citizens, Sperisen will go on trial in Geneva. Swiss law imposes legal proceedings for crimes committed abroad by Swiss nationals when the person lives in Switzerland.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR