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Guatemala ex-dictator to stand trial on genocide charges in civil war killings of Indians

A judge has ruled that a former U.S.-backed dictator who presided over one of the bloodiest periods of Guatemala's civil war will stand trial on charges he ordered the murder, torture and displacement of thousands of Mayan Indians.

Human rights advocates have said Jose Efrain Rios Montt's prosecution would be an important symbolic victory for the victims of one of the horrific conflicts that devastated Central America during the last decades of the Cold War. The Tuesday decision clears the way for a three-judge panel to hear the evidence against Rios Montt and decide to either judge him guilty and sentence him, exonerate him of the charge or start a public trial to rule on his guilt or innocence.