National Catholic Register

News

World Notes & Quotes

From Selected Sources

BY Jim Cosgrove

October 24-30, 1999 Issue | Posted 10/24/99 at 2:00 PM

 

Guatamalan Priest Flees Country

CABLE NEWS NETWORK, Oct. 13—A Guatamalan priest whom prosecutors once accused of killing a prominent bishop and human rights crusader, fled the county on Oct. 12 after receiving anonymous telephone calls, the news network's online service reported.

Father Mario Orantes had been held by police as a suspect in the April 1998 murder of Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi, for whom the priest worked. He was later released for lack of evidence, the news network reported.

According to the report, Orantes flew to an undisclosed country early on Oct. 12, after receiving a number of calls over the past few weeks. His lawyer is reported saying, “They would call him up and then hang up. He decided abruptly to leave the country for security and health reasons.”

In the CNN version of the story, Orantes, who was Gerardi's aid, found the bishop's body in the rectory where the two priests lived. “He was [then] arrested in a sensational July 1998 police raid involving close to 100 heavily armed officers,” it said.

Orantes' lawyer said his client was free to travel because all charges against him had been dropped, the report said, adding, “Human rights groups and church officials accused the country's security forces or ordering Father Gerard's killing and of covering up the investigation. The military denies any involvement.”