Despite a series of international inquiries finding him responsible for war crimes, Rios Montt served as a congressman for 15 years until he lost a re-election race in 2011. He held immunity from prosecution while a member of Congress and was put under house arrest after losing his post.
A judge charged him with genocide and crimes against humanity in January 2012. After the courts dealt with more than 100 appeals, the trial started this March.
The trial was widely seen as a turning point for a nation still wrestling with the trauma of a conflict that killed some 200,000 people.
The former general, who sat stiffly in court, impeccably attired in dark suits and well-shined shoes, steadfastly denied any guilt.
"I declare myself innocent," Rios Montt told the three-judge tribunal Thursday as many in the audience applauded. "It was never my intention or my goal to destroy a whole ethnic group."
"I never ordered attacks on a specific race. I never did it, and of everything they have said, there was no clear participation," he added.
The oldest of Rios Montt's three children, Homero, died in 1982 when guerrillas shot down the helicopter he was traveling in. His other son, Enrique, served in the army until his father's political party reached the presidency and he went into government as defense minister.
Zury, his only daughter and the youngest, followed her father's political career and was elected to Congress several times as a member of his party. She is married to a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Jerry Weller, a Republican from Illinois.
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