US embassy cable - 03GUATEMALA231

GERARDI WITNESS FOUND DEAD

Identifier: 03GUATEMALA231
Wikileaks: View 03GUATEMALA231 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Guatemala
Created: 2003-01-29 14:00:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PHUM PREL PINR KJUS GT
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


 
C O N F I D E N T I A L GUATEMALA 000231 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/28/2013 
TAGS: PHUM, PREL, PINR, KJUS, GT 
SUBJECT: GERARDI WITNESS FOUND DEAD 
 
REF: 02 GUATEMALA 2649 
 
1. (U) Summary: A key witness in the Gerardi trial was 
reportedly murdered on December 19, 2002.  The body of the 
witness, Noe Gomez Limon, was found on January 21, nearly a 
month after the murder, and details about the murder remain 
fragmentary.  On January 22, MINUGUA called on the government 
to investigate his death and to protect the remaining 
witnesses in the Gerardi case.  End Summary. 
 
2. (U) Noe Gomez Limon was an inmate at the prison in 
Antigua, Guatemala in 1998, along with his brother, Gilberto 
Gomez Limon.  Gilberto testified during the summer 2001 
Gerardi murder trial that he saw fellow inmate Obdulio 
Villanueva leave the prison the night of Bishop Gerardi's 
murder, April 26, 1998.  In the 2001 trial, Noe testified 
that he had repeatedly been threatened in an effort to 
silence his brother Gilberto. 
 
3. (SBU) MINUGUA and the Archbishop's Office on Human Rights 
(ODHA) confirmed Noe Gomez Limon's accounts of being under 
threat until his murder in December.  His brother Gilberto's 
testimony was considered "key" to the verdict in 2001, when 
Obdulio Villanueva was found guilty along with three other 
defendants.  That verdict is now in question, after one 
appeals court annulled the sentence and ordered a retrial 
(reftel), prompting another court to uphold the 2001 sentence 
while an appeal of the retrial decision is heard.  ODHA 
director Nery Rodenas told HROff that the public audience for 
the presentation of the appeals will be held on January 31. 
 
4. (C) Rodenas also informed HROff that Noe Gomez Limon was 
under the Public Ministry's witness protection program in 
another country until sometime in 2002, when he relinquished 
their protection and returned to Guatemala.  Rodenas assumes 
that this was an attempt to intimidate Gilberto Gomez Limon, 
brother of slain Noe Gomez Limon, from returning to Guatemala 
should another trial be ordered by the courts.  Gilberto is 
still in the witness protection program and his testimony is 
crucial to the prosecution's case against Obdulio Villanueva. 
 
5. (C) Rodenas said that this is the first witness from the 
Gerardi case that has been murdered, while virtually all of 
the witnesses for the prosecution have been threatened since 
their involvement in the events of April 26, 1998.  Rodenas 
is troubled by the reluctance of the Public Ministry to 
investigate Gomez Limon's death, especially because his 
murder was not reported until a month after it supposedly 
occurred in his home.  Rodenas said the longer the Public 
Ministry waits to conduct the investigation, the less likely 
it is they will obtain any results that would help shed light 
on who is behind the murder. 
 
5. (SBU) COMMENT: Continued attempts to intimidate and 
eliminate witnesses in the Gerardi case remain deeply 
troubling.  Whether this murder was politically motivated 
remains to be proven, though we are inclined to agree with 
Rodenas that the convenient timing of the murder so close to 
the impending appeals decision is no coincidence.  Ambassador 
is raising this case and our concern about the Gerardi appeal 
status with the Attorney General.  End Comment. 
Hamilton 

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