Guatemala: Ex-officials arrested for civil war killings

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Guatemala: Ex-officials arrested for civil war killings
CORRECTS YEAR - Francisco Gordillo Martinez, center, a former army officer, arrives to a courtroom in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. Prosecutors announced the arrest of several former military and government officials in connection with killings and disappearances during Guatemalaâs civil war, and initiated human rights proceedings against a political party ally of President-elect Jimmy Morales. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Edilberto Letona Linares, a former army officer, sits surrounded by police after arriving to a courtroom in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. Prosecutors announced on Wednesday the arrest of several former military and government officials in connection with killings and disappearances during Guatemalaâs civil war, and initiated human rights proceedings against a political party ally of President-elect Jimmy Morales. Letona Linares was among those arrested. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Benedicto Lucas Garcia, a former army commander credited with founding Guatemalaâs paramilitary groups, center, stands escorted by police officers after a hearing at a courtroom in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. Prosecutors arrested Lucas Garcia, the brother of deceased former President Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia in connection with killings and disappearances during the country's 1960-1996 civil war. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Benedicto Lucas Garcia, a former army commander credited with founding Guatemalaâs paramilitary groups, photographed through a window, walks into a cell during a hearing at a courtroom in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. On Wednesday, prosecutors arrested Lucas Garcia, the brother of deceased former President Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia in connection with killings and disappearances during the country's 1960-1996 civil war. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Benedicto Lucas Garcia, front, a former army commander credited with founding Guatemalaâs paramilitary groups, smiles as he arrives to a courtroom in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. Prosecutors arrested Lucas Garcia, the brother of deceased former President Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia in connection with killings and disappearances during the country's 1960-1996 civil war. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Benedicto Lucas Garcia, a former army commander credited with founding Guatemalaâs paramilitary groups, sits into a cell during a hearing at a courtroom in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. On Wednesday, prosecutors arrested Lucas Garcia, the brother of deceased former President Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia in connection with killings and disappearances during the country's 1960-1996 civil war. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Benedicto Lucas Garcia, a former army commander credited with founding Guatemalaâs paramilitary groups, arrives to a courtroom in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. On Wednesday, prosecutors arrested Lucas Garcia, the brother of deceased former President Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia in connection with killings and disappearances during the country's 1960-1996 civil war. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
A police officer removes handcuffs from Benedicto Lucas Garcia, a former army commander credited with founding Guatemalaâs paramilitary groups, before escorting Lucas Garcia into a courtroom in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. On Wednesday, prosecutors arrested Lucas Garcia, the brother of deceased former President Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia in connection with killings and disappearances during the country's 1960-1996 civil war. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
A police officer frisks Benedicto Lucas Garcia, a former army commander credited with founding Guatemalaâs paramilitary groups, before escorting him into a courtroom in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. On Wednesday, prosecutors arrested Lucas Garcia, the brother of deceased former President Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia in connection with killings and disappearances during the country's 1960-1996 civil war. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Benedicto Lucas Garcia, a former army commander credited with founding Guatemalaâs paramilitary groups, is escorted by police as they wait for the elevator inside a courtroom in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. On Wednesday, prosecutors arrested Lucas Garcia, the brother of deceased former President Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia in connection with killings and disappearances during the country's 1960-1996 civil war. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
A police officer removes handcuffs from Benedicto Lucas Garcia, a former army commander credited with founding Guatemalaâs paramilitary groups, before escorting Lucas Garcia into a courtroom in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. On Wednesday, prosecutors arrested Lucas Garcia, the brother of deceased former President Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia in connection with killings and disappearances during the country's 1960-1996 civil war. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Benedicto Lucas Garcia, a former army commander credited with founding Guatemalaâs paramilitary groups, arrives to a courtroom in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. On Wednesday, prosecutors arrested Lucas Garcia, the brother of deceased former President Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia in connection with killings and disappearances during the country's 1960-1996 civil war. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
A police officer removes handcuffs from Benedicto Lucas Garcia, a former army commander credited with founding Guatemalaâs paramilitary groups, before escorting Lucas Garcia into a courtroom in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. On Wednesday, prosecutors arrested Lucas Garcia, the brother of deceased former President Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia in connection with killings and disappearances during the country's 1960-1996 civil war. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
Guatemalan former army commander and brother of deceased former President Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia, Benedicto Lucas Garcia (R) along with retired militarymen Raul Dahesa (2R), Edgar Hernandez(2L) and Jose Vasquez attend a court hearing in Guatemala City on January 6, 2016. Prosecutors arrested Lucas Garcia in connection with killings and disappearances during the country's 1960-1996 civil war. AFP PHOTO / ORLANDO ESTRADA / AFP / ORLANDO ESTRADA (Photo credit should read ORLANDO ESTRADA/AFP/Getty Images)
Guatemalan former army commander and brother of deceased former President Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia, Benedicto Lucas Garcia, arrives for a court hearing in Guatemala City on January 6, 2016. Prosecutors arrested Lucas Garcia in connection with killings and disappearances during the country's 1960-1996 civil war. AFP PHOTO / ORLANDO ESTRADA / AFP / ORLANDO ESTRADA (Photo credit should read ORLANDO ESTRADA/AFP/Getty Images)
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GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Prosecutors on Wednesday announced the arrest of more than a dozen former military and government officials for alleged crimes against humanity committed during Guatemala's civil war, and initiated human rights proceedings against an ally of President-elect Jimmy Morales.

Among the 14 people detained was Benedicto Lucas Garcia, a former army commander credited with founding paramilitary groups during the 1960-1996 conflict. He is also the brother of the late President Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia, who ruled Guatemala with an iron fist from 1978 to 1982.

Also detained were retired Gen. Francisco Luis Gordillo, who helped bring former dictator Jose Efrain Rios Montt to power from 1982 to 1983, and Byron Barrientos, who was interior minister during the 2000-2004 presidency of Alfonso Portillo.

The suspects face charges of crimes against humanity involving massacres and disappearances of people by security forces under their command. They were ordered held in a military base prison ahead of a court hearing expected Friday.

"The cases that we have documented were (attacks) against the non-combatant civilian population including children," Attorney General Thelma Aldana said. She described them as among "the largest forced disappearances in Latin America."

Guatemalan media broadcast images of the former officials in handcuffs, some of them crying and saying their work during the war only involved fighting guerrilla bands.

"If I killed, I killed in combat, leading my troops and not as a coward or anything like that," Lucas told reporters at the courthouse.

Prosecutors also moved to have the immunity of office lifted for Edgar Justino Ovalle, a member and co-founder of the party of Morales, who is scheduled to be inaugurated as president next week. As a sitting congressman, Ovalle is not subject to criminal prosecution unless lawmakers vote to end his immunity.

Peace accords brought an end to the 36-year civil war in 1996. Government security forces have been blamed for the vast majority of the 245,000 killings and disappearances during the conflict.

The detentions involve incidents such as the 1982 massacre at Plan de Sanchez, Baja Verapaz department, in which soldiers and militia members tortured, sexually abused and killed local residents.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that the arrests were announced Wednesday.

Related: Civil War remains found in 2012:

Mass Graves Network Found in Guatemala

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