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Guatemalan gets 12 years in prison for French NGO director’s killing

Guatemalan gets 12 years in prison for French NGO director’s killing

A Guatemalan court on Tuesday sentenced a local man to 12 years in prison for his involvement in the killing three years ago of a French NGO director, a lawyer for the victim’s family told AFP.

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Diego Tay was found guilty by a court in Quetzaltenango of complicity to homicide in the death of Frenchman Benoit Maria, according to attorney Edgar Perez.

Maria, the Guatemala director of the agriculture and animal health NGO Agronomes et Veterinaires Sans Frontieres (AVSF), was shot in an indigenous area in Guatemala’s northeast in August 2020.

The NGO said at the time that Maria, 52, was killed in an ambush.

He had lived in Guatemala for more than 20 years, supporting agricultural projects for the Indigenous Mayan Ixil communities.

Tay, an Indigenous municipal councilman, was also found guilty of illegal weapons possession, for which he was handed three years in prison, to be added to the homicide sentence.

Family lawyer Clemence Witt had earlier told AFP that robbery had been ruled out as a motive, as Maria’s personal belongings were all found inside his car.

 In 2021, when Tay was arrested, prosecutors said Maria may have been killed for refusing to pay a bribe to use a road through a local community.

According to Witt, an international arrest warrant has been issued for another person suspected of involvement in the crime “which could lead to a second trial.”

At the time of the killing, French President Emmanuel Macron praised Maria’s “humanist, fraternal, supportive commitment that honored France,” describing the murder as “cowardly.”


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