World

Guatemalan ex-police officer goes on trial in 1980 fire at Spanish embassy that killed 37

  • Rigoberta Menchu, a Nobel Peace prize winner, attends a religious Mayan ceremony outside the Supreme Court before the start of a trial connected to the death of her father in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Former police chief Pedro Garcia Arredondo is going on trial for death of Menchu's father, and 36 more people, who died in a Jan. 31, 1980 attack by alleged government agents. The attackers burned down the Spanish embassy in Guatemala that Mayan peasants were occupying in protest. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

    Rigoberta Menchu, a Nobel Peace prize winner, attends a religious Mayan ceremony outside the Supreme Court before the start of a trial connected to the death of her father in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Former police chief Pedro Garcia Arredondo is going on trial for death of Menchu's father, and 36 more people, who died in a Jan. 31, 1980 attack by alleged government agents. The attackers burned down the Spanish embassy in Guatemala that Mayan peasants were occupying in protest. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)  (The Associated Press)

  • Rigoberta Menchu, a Nobel Peace prize winner, right, talks with Mayan priestess Juana Vasquez during a religious Mayan ceremony outside Supreme Court before the start of a trial involving the death of Menchu's father in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Former police chief Pedro Garcia Arredondo is going on trial in connection with the death of Menchu's father, and 36 more people, who died in a Jan. 31, 1980 attack by alleged government agents. The attackers burned down the Spanish embassy in Guatemala where Mayan peasants were occupying in protest. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

    Rigoberta Menchu, a Nobel Peace prize winner, right, talks with Mayan priestess Juana Vasquez during a religious Mayan ceremony outside Supreme Court before the start of a trial involving the death of Menchu's father in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Former police chief Pedro Garcia Arredondo is going on trial in connection with the death of Menchu's father, and 36 more people, who died in a Jan. 31, 1980 attack by alleged government agents. The attackers burned down the Spanish embassy in Guatemala where Mayan peasants were occupying in protest. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)  (The Associated Press)

  • People attend a Mayan ceremony outside the Supreme Court of Justice before the start of a trial in connection with a massacre in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Former police chief Pedro Garcia Arredondo is going on trial in connection with the death of 37 people who died in a Jan. 31, 1980 attack by alleged government agents. The attackers burned down the Spanish embassy in Guatemala where Mayan peasants were occupying in protest. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

    People attend a Mayan ceremony outside the Supreme Court of Justice before the start of a trial in connection with a massacre in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Former police chief Pedro Garcia Arredondo is going on trial in connection with the death of 37 people who died in a Jan. 31, 1980 attack by alleged government agents. The attackers burned down the Spanish embassy in Guatemala where Mayan peasants were occupying in protest. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)  (The Associated Press)

A former police officer is on trial in Guatemala for the deaths of 37 people more than three decades ago when the Spanish Embassy burned down during Guatemala's bloody civil conflict.

Pedro Garcia Arredondo is a former special investigations chief for the Sixth Commando of the National Police.

He is accused of homicide and crimes against humanity for allegedly ordering agents to keep anyone from leaving the diplomatic mission as it burned in 1980.

The first witness called Wednesday was 1992 Nobel peace laureate Rigoberta Menchu, whose father was one of those killed in the blaze.