A Guatemalan accused of involvement in the killing three years ago of a French NGO director goes on trial Monday even as the motive for the murder remains unclear.
Benoit 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.
The accused in the dock Monday in Quetzaltenango, in Guatemala’s west, is an Indigenous man by the name of Diego Tay.
Lawyers said Maria’s partner Anna Isern Sabria, who lives in Guatemala, will attend the trial, as well as his brothers Christophe and David Maria, who have arrived in the country from France.
AVSF director general Frederic Apollin will also be there.
“Benoit Maria’s family hopes (the hearings) will shed light on the motives that led to this murder,” attorney Clemence Witt told AFP from Paris.
According to the lawyer, robbery has been ruled out as a motive as Maria’s personal belongings were all found inside his car.
Witt said via email that an international arrest warrant has been issued for another person suspected of involvement in the crime “which could lead to a second trial.”
In 2021, when Tay was arrested, prosectors said Maria may have been killed for refusing to pay a bribe to use a road through a local community.
Witt said the evidence suggested Tay, a municipal councilman, was part of a criminal family “that extorted large sums of money from foreigners circulating in the area” where Maria was killed.
The lawyer added that investigations were also under way in France, which had jurisdiction by virtue of the victim’s nationality.
At the time of the crime, French President Emmanuel Macron praised Maria’s “humanist, fraternal, supportive commitment that honored France,” describing the murder as “cowardly.”
Source : Macau Bussinesse