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Guatemala court: former dictator can be tried on genocide charges, but not sentenced

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GUATEMALA CITY — Former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt can stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity — but can't be sentenced because the 89-year-old suffers from dementia, according to a court's decision announced Tuesday.

The court ruling said the law allows for a special trial where all evidence and witnesses will be presented behind closed doors with a representative of Rios Montt. He can be found innocent or guilty, but will not receive a sentence because of his health conditions.

His lawyers have the option to appeal the ruling. The court set the trial date for Jan. 11, 2016.

The court determined Rios Montt suffers from dementia following an evaluation by a panel of 10 doctors. Rios Montt was evaluated in a private hospital during eight days. The court's decision to proceed with a special trial was not anonymous. One of the three judges voted that the prosecution of the ex-dictator stop.

Rios Montt was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to 80 years for genocide and crimes against humanity during his dictatorship in 1982 and 1983 at the height of Guatemala's brutal civil war. The sentence was later thrown out.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2015 file photo, Guatemala's former dictator Jose Efrain Rios Montt arrives on a gurney to court where he faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in Guatemala City. A Guatemalan court ruling announced Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, that Rios Montt can stand trial but in a special proceeding because the 89-year-old suffers from dementia. The court says the law allows for a special trial where all evidence and witnesses will be presented behind closed doors with a representative. He can be found innocent or guilty, but will not receive a sentence because of his health conditions. (AP Photo/Luis Soto, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2015 file photo, Guatemala's former dictator Jose Efrain Rios Montt arrives on a gurney to court where he faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in Guatemala City. A Guatemalan court ruling announced Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, that Rios Montt can stand trial but in a special proceeding because the 89-year-old suffers from dementia. The court says the law allows for a special trial where all evidence and witnesses will be presented behind closed doors with a representative. He can be found innocent or guilty, but will not receive a sentence because of his health conditions. (AP Photo/Luis Soto, File)

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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: An Ixil woman enters the court room during the genocide trial of Guatemala's former dictator Jose Efrain Rios Montt in in Guatemala City, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. A Guatemalan court ruling announced Tuesday that Rios Montt can stand trial but in a special proceeding because the 89-year-old suffers from dementia. The court says the law allows for a special trial where all evidence and witnesses will be presented behind closed doors with a representative. He can be found innocent or guilty, but will not receive a sentence because of his health conditions. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
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