GUATEMALA CITY – GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — A Guatemalan court has issued arrest warrants for a former interior minister and a top police official for allegedly participating in the killing of inmates during a prison escape and uprising, a court employee said Wednesday.
Nineteen people are named in the warrants, including former Interior Minister Carlos Vielmann and former National Police Director Erwin Sperissen, according to the court employee, who was not authorized to be quoted by name. Both men are believed to have left Guatemala.
All of the officials sought are from the 2004-2008 administration of then President Oscar Berger.
President Alvaro Colom called the warrants "a challenge to break impunity."
One warrant was for the former prison director, Alejandro Giammattei, who sought refuge in the Honduran Embassy on Friday claiming he was the victim of a political persecution. Honduran Ambassador to Guatemala Jorge Miguel Gabrie said Wednesday that the asylum request was rejected and that he expected Giammattei to leave the embassy by Friday.
The accused ex-officials are reportedly implicated in ordering the killing of seven inmates when police regained control of the country's Pavon prison following an uprising there in 2007, and the execution of three inmates who escaped from the "El Infiernito" prison in 2005.
Berger's administration enacted policies to crack down on violent crime and street gangs, and it was unclear whether the alleged killings were related to that policy.
Seven of the 19 suspects were detained Monday, and investigators said they include two civilians, two former policeman and an officer still on the force.
The U.N International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, which is charged with investigating such cases, said in a statement that the seven detained men "were part of a criminal organization that was organized within the interior ministry and national police since 2004, and which carried out illegal executions.
"This organization continued on with criminal activities including homicides, money laundering, kidnapping, extortion and robberies," the commission said, though it was unclear if all or any of the ex-officials knew about the other crimes.