Molina Theissen Trial Expected to Move to Verdict

The Molina Theissen trial is nearing its conclusion, with a verdict expected early this week.

Concluding remarks, which started last week, continued on Thursday, May 17, with Héctor Reyes, lawyer for the mother of the victims, Emma Theissen Alvarez de Molina, as well as defense lawyers for four of the defendants, addressing the court.

At the next hearing, scheduled for Monday, May 21, defense counsel for Benedicto Lucas García and each of the defendants in turn will present concluding remarks. Emma Molina Theissen and her mother will address the court, which will then schedule a final hearing. Civil party lawyers told IJ Monitor that this could be as early as Monday afternoon.

Concluding remarks: Emma Theissen Alvarez de Molina

In his concluding remarks, Reyes summarized the facts of the case, focusing on the enforced disappearance of Marco Antonio on October 6, 1981. He reminded the Court of the reasons why his client, Doña Emma, and her 14 year old son Marco Antonio were in the family home that morning, which coincides with the testimony presented by the Molina Theissen sisters, Ana Lucrecia and Maria Eugenia, when three men raided the family home and kidnapped her son. He reminded the court that his client was an eyewitness to the kidnapping and that in the courtroom she identified the defendant Hugo Zaldaña Rojas as one of the men who kidnapped her son.

Reyes continued with a brief analysis of the different expert witness testimonies, arguing that these help to determine the functional responsibility of each of the defendants in the enforced disappearance of Marco Antonio. Reyes concluded that the three defendants, Benedicto Lucas García, Callejas y Callejas y Zaldaña Rojas, were criminally responsible for the enforced disappearance of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen. Citing Article 8 of the Law of National Reconciliation, which establishes that criminal responsibility for such international crimes as genocide, torture, and enforced disappearance are not subject to statutes of limitation, he called on the court to impose a sentence of 40 years of prison for each of the accused. (The Attorney General’s Office called for the same sanction, as well as 30 years for crimes against humanity and 20 years for aggravated sexual assault against Emma Molina Theissen for each of the five defendants.)

Closing remarks: Defense Counsel for the Defendants

The representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGN) (a separate entity from the Attorney General’s Office) focused his remarks on the issue of reparations, stating that the Molina Theissen Family had already received economic reparations by the state of Guatemala as a result of the 2004 sentence by the Inter-American Court of human rights. However he did not refer to the reparations that the state of Guatemala has yet to implement, including the search and return of the remains of Marco Antonio to the family, and the criminal prosecution and sanction of those responsible.

Valdemar Antonio Figueroa, defense counsel for Zaldaña Rojas, began by arguing that the Attorney General’s Office has failed to demonstrate a clear relationship between the alleged crimes and his client. He argued that there was no evidence to corroborate the testimony of Emma Molina Theissen, and stated that she had never been captured and held in Military Zone No. 17 (MZ 21). He also expressed serious doubt that Emma could have escaped, given what she claims occurred during her captivity on the military base.

Figueroa further questioned the identification of his client by Emma Theissen Alvarez de Molina as the author of the kidnapping of her son. He presented two photographs of his client, one as a young official in 1981, and another more recent photograph; Zaldaña Rojas’s change in appearance and the passage of time cast doubts on Doña Emma’s ability to positively identify him. Figueroa concluded by asking the court “in the name of God” to find his defendant innocent and return him to his family.

Next, in representation of Gordillo Martínez, Alejandro Antonio Arriaza Aguila began with an attack on the Attorney General’s Office. He charged that the AG’s Office was politicized and acting on bad faith, and charged, without providing specifics, that it had manipulated and fabricated evidence. He then stated, “here there are two bands, right and left, who only want money and who live like kings,” in reference to the latter. He also stated that the Attorney General’s Office had planted documents at the home of his client on the day of his arrest in 2016, and argued that international organizations were manipulating the proceedings and interfering in Guatemala’s justice system. He concluded by asking the court to find his defendant innocent and free him immediately.

Subsequently, Jose Luis Alejo Rodríguez, defense counsel for Letona Linares, asserted his client’s innocence, stating that the Attorney General’s Office has altered its accusations. It initially accused his client of “having knowledge” of the alleged crimes, but was now saying Linares “should have had knowledge” of them, and noting that Emma herself stated in her testimony that not everyone was aware of her capture and captivity in MZ No. 17. The lawyer argued that according to expert witnesses Rodolfo Robles and Hector Rosada, his client, who was the second commander of MZ No. 17, was not aware of Emma’s capture. The lawyer concluded by arguing that Emma’s testimony about sexual violations lacks credibility and, given the absence of corroborating evidence, has not been proven. He concluded by calling upon the court to find his defendant innocent and free him immediately.

Finally, defense counsel for Manuel Callejas y Callejas, José Antonio Anaya Cardona, began by stating that the evidence presented was insufficient to prove the alleged crimes, so it is therefore not possible to find his client guilty. He further questioned the expert witness testimonies, saying that the experts were never accredited and thus their reports should not be taken into account. He claimed that Emma’s statements were contradictory. For example, he said, Emma referred to an official as the “blond bald guy” which is a clear reference to the S3 intelligence official of MZ 17, Robert Eduardo Letona Hora, who he said was on leave at that time. Finally, he stated that the documents that were presumably seized from his client’s home are not authentic and therefore should not be considered valid evidence. He concluded by calling upon the court to find his defendant innocent.

Senior Retired Military Officials Attend Trial Session in Solidarity with the Accused

At the morning session, at least five retired senior army officers were present to demonstrate their solidarity with the defendants. They took photographs of themselves and exchanged jokes and comments about the proceedings. One of the senior officials present was retired Brigadier General José Horacio Soto Salán, who has been linked to obscure military power groups connected to Callejas and Callejas, as well as Hugo Tulio Bucaro, Jacobo Esdras Salán Sánchez, Byron Humberto Barrientos and José Luis Fernández Ligorría, among others. Expert witness Julieta Rostica mentioned Soto Salán as one of the military officials who received technical military training in Argentina after Callejas y Callejas signed an agreement with the Argentine military to learn about military intelligence from the infamous “Batallion 601.”