March 14, 2001

Guatemalan villagers hack rural judge to death

                  GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala (Reuters) -- A mob of more than 1,000
                  villagers hacked a rural judge to death and burned his remains in northern
                  Guatemala Tuesday after he acquitted an alleged rapist, police officials said.

                  Residents of Senahu, 231 miles north of Guatemala City, confronted Judge Hugo
                  Martinez about the verdict, then attacked him with machetes and sticks after he
                  fired into the crowd fearing for his life, National Civil Police spokesman Faustino
                  Sanchez told Reuters.

                  Sanchez said two people were injured.

                  "They (the crowd) killed him with sticks and machetes and then, when they got
                  tired of that, they crushed him up with stones and set fire to what was left,"
                  Sanchez said.

                  The crowd also took four local police officers hostage but they were later
                  released, Sanchez said. Police were still trying to calm the villagers, who seized
                  six assault rifles and six pistols.

                  "They want a village without law," Sanchez said, noting the villagers had
                  demanded all police and prosecutors withdraw permanently from the village,
                  which has 12,000 inhabitants.

                  Mob attacks are common in parts of rural Guatemala, which bore the brunt of
                  the violence during the country's 36-year civil war between the government and
                  leftist guerrillas that ended with 1996 peace accords.

                  Mob justice had claimed at least three lives in the country so far this year,
                  Sanchez said.

                     Copyright 2001 Reuters.