Spain frees Guatemalan wanted in UN-backed probe

A Spanish judge Tuesday ordered a former Guatemalan interior minister be freed because authorities in the Central American country failed to request his extradition on charges he ordered the extra-judicial execution of seven inmates.

Carlos Vielmann is among several members of Guatemala's elite targeted by a United Nations-backed commission that is aiming to end criminal impunity in Guatemala and dismantle illegal security groups there.

The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, or CICIG in Spanish, had linked Vielmann with the 2006 summary executions of seven inmates at the Pavon prison outside of the capital, Guatemala City. The seven were found dead after thousands of police and soldiers stormed the prison, retaking it from inmates who ran a crack-cocaine lab inside.

Vielmann has said the prisoners died while putting up a fight.

The former interior minister is also wanted in three separate cases. He resigned in 2007 after allegations in one of those cases became known.

The Guatemalan Constitutional Court had granted a request by Vielmann's lawyers to halt his extradition on a technicality. The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry had been awaiting the constitutional court's decision before making a decision on filing the extradition request.

Vielmann's son, Carlos Vielmann Abascal, hailed the Spanish judge's decision.

Activists decried it.

"The entire society, the whole country, is being denied the truth about what happened in Pavon," said Carmen Aida Ibarra, of the Guatemala-based Pro-Justice Movement, adding the case was "aborted due to the negligence of judicial officials and the Foreign Ministry."

Former Guatemala Vice President Eduardo Stein, who held office from 2004 to 2008 and helped bring the CICIG to Guatemala, has now accused it of "going out of control" in the Vielmann case.

Stein and other businessmen have argued the commission — whose head is named by the U.N. secretary-general — has overstepped its mandate and even operated outside the law.

Commission officials did not return calls Tuesday.

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Associated Press writer Juan Carlos Llorca in Guatemala City contributed to this report.