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Judge Orders Guatemalan To Pay U.S. Nun Plaintiffs Were Tortured, Raped; Damages Set At $47 Million

A federal judge has ordered the retired defense minister of Guatemala to pay $47 million in damages to nine Guatemalans and an American nun for atrocities they suffered at the hands of army soldiers, including torture and rape.

Gen. Hector Gramajo, 54, whose authority and celebrity in Guatemala have risen since he was served with two lawsuits at his 1991 commencement from Harvard University’s Kennedy School, lost both because he did not contest them, U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock said Wednesday.

Woodlock found Gramajo responsible as the supervisor of soldiers who carried out the torture, sanctioning their actions.

The victims who sued Gramajo may never see a penny of the $47 million, their lawyers said Wednesday. But in a telephone interview from Guatemala, Gramajo said he believes he was “framed” and that the court decision is timed to damage his bid for the presidency of his country.

“I visualized this ending,” Gramajo said. “It’s not against me, it’s against the state of Guatemala. I was the only formal official of the Guatemalan government on U.S. soil” when the suits were filed, he said.

Gramajo said he was not able to defend himself or participate in the litigation.

“I am defenseless,” he said. “I don’t live in Boston.”

Among the plaintiffs was Dianna Ortiz, an American Ursuline nun who was kidnapped from a village where she worked with children and repeatedly interrogated and raped by members of the Guatemalan army. She said Wednesday in a telephone interview that Gramajo is far from defenseless.

Gramajo had made public statements after Ortiz escaped to the United States dismissing the 100 cigarette burns on her body as a fabrication and the rapes as the acts of a spurned lover.

Tags: ruling, trial