In an unprecedented ruling, a Guatemalan judge ordered Monday that former strongman Gen. Efrain Rios Montt and one of his closest collaborators be tried for genocide and crimes against humanity.
The trial will convene Thursday.
Judge Miguel Angel Galvez found sufficient evidence to prosecute Rios Montt and retired Gen. Jose Mauricio Rodriguez for the killings of 1,771 Ixil Indians between March 1982 and August 1983 in the context of Guatemala's 1960-1996 civil war.
Rios Montt, 86, is accused of masterminding the bloodbath, while the 67-year-old Rodriguez is charged with carrying out the mass killings as a part of a "scorched earth" campaign.
The erstwhile dictator, who seized power in a coup, will remain under house arrest, Galvez ordered.
Rodriguez is to remain in custody at the military hospital where he was admitted in mid-2012 for ostensible health problems.
Neither defendant had any reaction at Monday's hearing, but victims' relatives and human rights activists burst into applause and set off fireworks outside the courthouse.
This trial will be the first of any Guatemalan ruler for the massacres and atrocities of the civil war.
Rios Montt presided over the bloodiest phase of a conflict that claimed more than 200,000 lives. Most of the dead were Indian peasants slaughtered by the army and its paramilitary allies. EFE