Page last updated at 23:02 GMT, Monday, 18 May 2009 00:02 UK

Bolivia ex-leader's trial opens

Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada
Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada himself is being tried in absentia.

The trial has opened in Bolivia of former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and 16 members of his cabinet.

They are accused of responsibility for the deaths of 60 demonstrators six years ago after troops opened fire in the city of El Alto.

Only eight of the accused were actually in court. Mr Sanchez de Lozada and several others are living abroad.

Bolivian law does not allow a trial to proceed if the accused are not there, so lawyers now want them extradited.

The former president and three ex-ministers are in the United States, while three others are in Peru. Local reports say one other is in Spain, while the whereabouts of another are not known.

The case against them relates to demonstrations in 2002, when 60 people were killed in the city of El Alto.

Around 200 relatives of the dead gathered in hot sunshine outside the Supreme Court in the city of Sucre to demand justice.

The government of the current Bolivian President, Evo Morales, has called for the return of the accused from the US and Peru.

But the BBC's Candace Piette in Bolivia says neither country has been sympathetic to the left-wing Mr Morales.

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