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Ex-Guerrillas Flown to Guatemala

July 10, 1998

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) _ Seven former Guatemalan guerrillas were transferred Friday from prisons in Mexico to jails in their home country, where they hoped to get amnesty under peace accords that ended the civil war two years ago.

``I feel a great excitement combined with sadness,″ Rene Dolores Martinez, one of the prisoners, told The Associated Press. ``Excitement because we’re going home, but sadness to leave behind the Mexican people who treated us like their sons.″

Hundreds of inmates and guards at the Cerro Hueco prison in southern Mexico applauded and hooted as the Guatemalans were taken under heavy guard from the prison in Tuxtla Gutierrez. They were brought to the airport, then flown to Guatemala City.

In Guatemala, judge Juan Fernando Godinez Cuellar ordered the prisoners to undergo medical tests before he assigned them to a jail.

The prisoners said they hoped to be freed soon under an amnesty for former guerrillas that is part of peace treaties signed in December 1996.

Guatemala’s civil war, Latin America’s longest and deadliest, ended with the treaties. Guerrillas in Guatemala have been freed and disarmed, but the rebels remained in Mexican prisons.

They were arrested on Oct. 3, 1992, by Mexican soldiers as they transported a heavy weapon in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala. They were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 to 17 years for weapons violations.

Six of the Guatemalans _ Dolores Martinez; Samuel Elias Chavez Chiquin; David Gonzalez Perez; Martin Carmona Armas; Miriam Lopez Garcia and Alma Xochilt Gonzalez Lopez _ were held in the Cerro Hueco prison here.

Another, Jose Matias Armida, was held in a prison in the central state of Puebla.

``I think this opens another door to demand our real rights as former members of the Guatemalan guerrillas and as beneficiaries of the peace accords,″ said Dolores Martinez, 29.

He hadn’t seen his family in nine years, but said that the joy of the impending reunion was mixed with sadness.

``I feel sad because I’m leaving a great family, the hundreds of inmates with whom I have lived for six years,″ he said.

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