December 4, 1999
Military lawyers threaten Nobel laureate with criminal complaint

                  GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- Lawyers for military officers named in a
                  lawsuit filed by Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchu have said they will ask
                  Guatemalan authorities to investigate the propriety of the legal complaint.

                  Lawyer Julio Cintron alleged that Menchu's complaint before the Spanish
                  National Court was an act of "treason" that violated Guatemala's sovereignty
                  and national unity.

                  If the attorney general refuses to investigate, "we will present the
                  corresponding legal actions because Mrs. Menchu has committed a crime by
                  having presented in a foreign country a denouncement against Guatemalans,"
                  he said in comments published Saturday by the Prensa Libre newspaper.

                  Menchu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her work as a human
                  rights activist, filed a petition Thursday asking the Spanish National Court to
                  investigate former Guatemalan dictators and high-ranking police officers for
                  genocide, torture and state terrorism during Guatemala's 36-year civil war.

                  The court has gained worldwide attention for indicting former Chilean
                  dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet and members of the Argentine military
                  dictatorship for similar crimes in their countries.

                  A U.N.-backed Truth Commission set up to investigate human rights abuses
                  committed during the Guatemalan war that ended in 1996, concluded that
                  200,000 people were killed or disappeared during the conflict it concluded
                  was a genocide directed against Mayan Indians.

                  Among those accused in the Menchu suit are Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, who
                  governed Guatemala in 1982-83 and who remains a prominent politician in
                  the country, recently elected to Congress.

                  Also on the list are Gen. Oscar Humberto Mejia, who seized power in
                  August 1983 from Rios Montt, and Gen. Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia,
                  who ruled before him from 1978 to 1982.

                  Menchu's petition focuses on three cases, including the death of 37 people
                  killed when the security forces burned down the Spanish Embassy in 1980.
                  The murder of four Spanish priests during the regime of Rios Montt is also
                  central to the evidence presented. The third case involves the killing of
                  members of her family.

                    Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.