Bishop in Human Rights Campaign Beaten to Death

Article excerpt

Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera was dragged from his bed and beaten to death with a cement block, two days after he presented a scathing report on human rights violations during Guatemala's 36-year civil war.

Church officials said the 75-year-old prelate and head of the Guatemala City archdiocese's human-rights office was killed by someone who got into his residence through a garage door.

Attorney General Hugo Perez Aguilera called the crime "a vile murder," and said a police artist had drawn up a sketch of a male suspect from witnesses' descriptions.

Prosecutors and church officials say they have not identified a motive for the killing. However, a lay worker said the timing of the slaying was suspicious.

Edgar Gutierrez said: "We can't ignore the fact that the report - which blamed the Guatemalan army and civilian paramilitary groups it created for nearly 80 per cent of rights abuses in the civil war - has just been released."

It is the first killing of a high-ranking church member in Central America since peace accords ended civil wars in the region.

In Rome, Vatican spokesman the Rev Ciro Benedettini said the received confirmation of Bishop Gerardi's slaying but had no immediate details.

Mr Perez Aguilera said vagrants and drug addicts roam in the area where Bishop Gerardi's residence is located. …