Ex-dictator faces genocide retrial in Guatemala

Guatemala City (AFP) - A Guatemalan court on Wednesday began a closed-door retrial of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity committed during his 1982-1983 rule.

Rios Montt, now 89, was being tried in absentia with only the family members of victims on hand.

Rios Montt's attorney says his client has been diagnosed with dementia.

Prosecutors hope to reassert a conviction against the ex-general delivered in a May 2013 trial but which was overturned within days by Guatemala's constitutional court, which ordered the new trial. In the discarded verdict he was sentenced to 80 years in prison.

Rios Montt is accused of being responsible for the murders of 1,771 indigenous Ixil-Maya people during his rule at the height of Guatemala's 36-year civil war, which ended in 1996.

According to the UN, some 200,000 people died or were made to disappear during the long, brutal conflict.

Should he be convicted again, Rios Montt would be subject to detention in line with his health condition, meaning possible hospital internment or home confinement.

He is accused of orchestrating an extermination policy against the indigenous population, which was perceived to be collaborating with leftwing guerrillas waging war with government forces.

At the same time as the closed-door case, the same court is meant to conduct a public trial against Rios Montt's former military intelligence chief, Jose Rodriguez.

Rios Montt in March 1982 deposed Lucas Garcia, who went on to die in exile in Venezuela in 2006 aged 81 and suffering from Alzheimer's.