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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 March, 2004, 03:03 GMT
Guatemala ex-head in house arrest
Guatemala's former military leader Efrain Rios Montt seen voting
Rios Montt has overshadowed Guatemalan politics for decades
A Guatemalan judge has ordered former military ruler General Efrain Rios Montt to be placed under house arrest.

The order came hours after he appeared in court to testify in connection with the death of a journalist during a protest by his supporters last year.

It means the former general can leave his house but not the country.

General Rios Montt is accused of ruling over some of the worst atrocities during the country's civil war over the 18 months he was in office.

Election violence

The former ruler may face charges over the death of journalist Hector Ramirez, who died last July - apparently from a heart attack - while trying to escape a violent crowd of the general's supporters.

He would most likely be charged with "likely participation in three crimes: manslaughter, conspiracy and threatening bodily harm," Judge Victor Herrera was quoted by French news agency AFP as saying.

The leader of a military coup in the country in 1982, General Rios Montt came third in last year's presidential elections despite a constitutional rule that no one who had overthrown a government could stand for the presidency.

The elections were marred by violence, with more than 22 people connected with political parties killed in the run-up to the polls.

There were also riots in Guatemala City last June in support of Mr Rios Montt, when it looked as if he would be barred from standing.

He was eventually permitted after a constitutional court overturned a supreme court ban on his candidacy.

However, conservative businessman Oscar Berger - a former mayor of Guatemala City - eventually won the election in its second round.

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