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Colonel Called to Testify in Murder of U.S. Innkeeper

April 27, 1995

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) _ An army colonel and CIA informant accused of having an American killed was interrogated anew Wednesday, a week after claims by a soldier convicted of the murder led prosecutors to reopen the case.

The attorney general’s office did not comment on the questioning, but Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez repeated his claims of innocence.

``I am not guilty of the deeds they accuse me of. There is something behind all this,″ Alpirez told reporters after the meeting. ``I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.″

Prosecutors said a soldier serving a 30-year sentence for the murder of American Michael Devine gave them new evidence last week implicating Alpirez and another colonel. The military suspended both officers Tuesday.

Alpirez also is accused of ordering the 1992 killing of guerilla leader Efrain Bamaca, husband of Washington lawyer Jennifer Harbury.

Interest in the slayings were renewed last month, when U.S. Rep. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., accused Alpirez of ordering them while on the CIA payroll. Harbury drew public attention to the case through hunger strikes in Guatemala and in front of the White House.

The soldier cited by prosecutors, Francisco Solbal Santay, accused another official, Col. Mario Roberto Garcia Catalan, of ordering Devine’s 1990 murder.

Solbal, one of four soldiers imprisoned for the murder, testified on Friday. Fearing for his safety, he was transferred to another prison during the weekend.

Garcia Catalan also was called to testify Wednesday. Prosecutors wouldn’t discuss his questioning. He said he is innocent and has been cleared by previous investigations.

At the time of Devine’s death, Garcia Catalan was the commander of the Peten base in northern Guatemala. Alpirez was director an elite military school near the base. Devine’s decapitated body was found a few miles from Peten.

Bamaca vanished during a skirmish with the Guatemalan military in 1992. The army said he was killed in action, but witnesses have said they have seen him in military custody since then.

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