Atrocities recounted at genocide trial of Guatemalan ex-dictator

Guatemala City, Apr 3 (EFE).- A survivor of the massacres carried out by the Guatemalan army during the 1982-1983 rule of strongman Efrain Rios Montt said Wednesday at the retired general's genocide trial that soldiers "ripped out" the heart of one of his children.

"They opened up her chest, they ripped out her heart. I don't know if it was with a knife or a machete," Francisco Velasco testified in court about the killing of his 12-year-old daughter.

"What crime did my girl commit?" the 52-year-old Velasco asked rhetorically.

He said the troops killed at least 33 Ixil Indians, including 12 of his relatives, in August 1982 at Saquil in the northwestern province of Quiche.

"I want real justice," Velasco said in a hall of the Supreme Court, where the historic trial of Rios Montt, 86, and his erstwhile intelligence chief, 67-year-old retired Gen. Jose Rodriguez, is taking place.

"We've come here to demand justice for ourselves," said another witness, 54-year-old Francisco Guzman Rodriguez, who described how soldiers killed seven of his relatives.

Nearly 100 survivors have testified in the trial of Rios Montt and Rodriguez for the killings of 1,771 Ixils between March 1982 and August 1983.

The trial, which began March 19, marks the first time any Guatemalan ruler has been called to account for the massacres and atrocities of the country's 1960-1996 civil war.

Rios Montt presided over the bloodiest phase of a conflict that claimed more than 200,000 lives. Most of the dead were Indian peasants slaughtered by the army and its paramilitary allies.