Conclusion of Spanish Embassy Case Delayed

The conclusion of the Spanish embassy case has been delayed because the defense could not immediately present their final witnesses, and the prosecution has sought to prevent the testimony of one of their designated expert witnesses. The prosecution of former senior police officer Pedro Garcia Arredondo for the deaths in the Spanish embassy in 1980 had been due to close this month. Only one final witness currently remains.

Earlier, the trial was delayed because two of the defense witnesses were out of the country until December 18. Both testified December 19. The first, Rafael Castillo, Minister of Foreign Affairs in the early 1980s, affirmed he did not receive any call from the embassy or from Spain during or after the siege. Otherwise he remembered little.

The second witness, Jorge Lujan, author of The Tragedy of the Spanish Embassy Fire in Guatemala (La tragedia de la quema de la embajada de España en Guatemala), was prevented from providing an opinion as he was a fact witness rather than an expert witness. He then presented different versions of what could have happened but could not identify the most probable. He also mentioned that he criticized the Guatemalan government response as a violation of the sovereignty of the Spanish government and, thus, a violation of Guatemala’s obligations under the Vienna Convention.

On December 9, after concluding the presentation of its evidence in the trial, prosecutors requested to remove one of their intended expert witnesses. According to the prosecutor, expert witness Gilberto Sajché, who performed the autopsies on the victims, suffered from memory loss rendering him unable to recall the report he elaborated. However, Arredondo’s defense lawyers, objected to the exclusion of Sajché without a medical report confirming his health. The court ordered the National Forensic Institute to examine Sajché and provide a report on December 19.

In a hearing December 19, the National Forensic Institute informed the court it was unable to locate the witness. Defense lawyers reaffirmed the importance of Sajché’s declaration as his expert report contains information relating to Gustavo Molino, one of the hostages, as having suffered from a gunshot. The court then ordered the prosecutor to accompany a medical expert to ensure the completion of a medical examination and set a subsequent hearing for December 29.

During the hearing on December 29, the National Forensic Institute reported that it located Sajché; and that he does not suffer from any chronic or degenerative disease that would impede him from presenting his testimony.

Against the objections of the prosecutor, the court ordered a closed hearing December 30 for Sajché’s testimony. Sajché is the last witness. However, the prosecution noted that he was unavailable until January 2, potentially delaying the trial’s conclusion further.