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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 April, 2005, 06:34 GMT 07:34 UK
Guatemala politicians were racist
File photograph of indigenous activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu
Rigoberta Menchu has been campaigning for indigenous rights
Five Guatemalan politicians have been found guilty of racial discrimination against indigenous activist and Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu.

Footage of the accused shouting abuse at Ms Menchu was shown in what was the country's first racism trial.

The five, including the grandson of the former military ruler, were sentenced to three years' prison and fined $400 (210) but can pay more to avoid jail.

About 60% of Guatemala's population is indigenous - most living in poverty.


The racist chants were made at a court hearing in October 2003 to decide whether former ruler Gen Jose Efrain Rios Montt could stand for president.

Ms Menchu opposed the candidacy of the general, who ruled the country during the bloodiest period of Guatemala's 36-year-long civil war when a total of 200,000 indigenous Maya were killed or disappeared.

Gen Rios Montt's supporters taunted her with comments such as "Go and sell tomatoes at the market, Indian" after the court ruled in their favour.

The five guilty are Gen Rios Montt's grandson Juan Carlos Rios, and four women - former lawmaker Enma Samayoa, a member of the Guatemala City-based Central American Parliament, Ana Lopez, and two activists from the Republican Front party founded by Gen Rios Montt, Mirna Orellana and Elvia Morales.

Today we have a great experience that we can communicate to our children
Rigoberta Menchu

At the end of the month-long trial, the judges sentenced each of them to three years and two months in prison for discrimination and disturbing the peace.

They were also ordered to pay $400 in fines each but can avoid jail by paying $10 for each day of their sentence.

Ms Menchu won the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign for Indian rights.

She said: "Today we have a great experience that we can communicate to our children, that nobody should discriminate against anybody else, that nobody should offend the dignity of anybody else just because they speak another language or come from another part of the country."

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09 Mar 05 |  Americas
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31 Jul 03 |  Americas
Country profile: Guatemala
16 Nov 04 |  Country profiles

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