Page last updated at 09:50 GMT, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 10:50 UK

Guatemala murder scandal deepens

Campaigners bring thousands of signatures to Congress calling for Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom to be impeached
The petition's organisers say they want justice

Guatemala's Congress has received a 35,000-strong petition calling for President Alvaro Colom to be stripped of his immunity from prosecution.

The petition's organisers want Mr Colom to be tried over allegations he ordered the killing of a prominent lawyer.

The lawyer, who was shot dead on 10 May, had recorded a video saying that if he was found dead, the president and his advisers would be responsible.

President Colom has denied any involvement in the murder.

A UN-backed commission, set up to tackle corruption in Guatemala, has been asked to investigate the case. The FBI is also offering assistance.

On Monday, a group of lawyers delivered the 35,000 signatures calling on Congress to begin moves that could lead to the president's impeachment.

Supporters carry a photo of Presdient Colom during a demonstration on 15 May
There have been demonstrations for and against Mr Colom

"If we don't get a reply in eight days, we'll continue with peaceful protests through a national strike," said Luis Perez Alvarez, one of the petition's organisers.

"We don't want to bring down the government, nor are we conspiring against it. We just want justice."

The continuing crisis is nevertheless worrying outside observers. European Union ambassadors met President Colom on Monday to voice their concerns at growing violence in the country and to call for an "independent and impartial investigation" into the case.

'Clear conscience'

The Rio Group, which brings together Latin American nations, also expressed its concern at the current situation, while stressing its support for "the democratic institutions and the constitutional government" of Guatemala.

The head of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, is due to arrive in Guatemala on Thursday.

Analysts say the crisis could threaten Guatemala's weak democracy. The country only emerged from a long-running civil war a decade ago and is plagued by high levels of corruption and crime.

Mr Colom, elected in November 2007, is the Central American country's first left of centre leader for half a century.

In an interview with BBC Mundo last week, Mr Colom stressed that he had no idea why the lawyer, Rodrigo Rosenberg, would have recorded such allegations.

He said that he had no intention of standing down, not even temporarily while investigations were under way, saying his conscience was "completely clear".

In the video, Mr Rosenberg said he might be targeted because he represented a prominent businessman, Khalil Musa, who was killed in March along with his daughter, Marjorie Musa.

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Agonist Who's Twittering the Protests in Guatemala? - 6 hrs ago
Inside Costa Rica Guatemalan President Gets U.S. Support As Murder Scandal Rolls On - 28 hrs ago
Catholic Review Guatemalan cardinal urges restraint amid allegations against president - 33 hrs ago
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