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President Advises Colonel to Sue U.S. Congressman for Slander

March 29, 1995

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) _ Guatemala’s president said Wednesday he is convinced a colonel in his army had nothing to do with two high-profile killings, and advised him to file a defamation lawsuit against a U.S. congressman who claimed otherwise.

U.S. Rep. Robert Torricelli accused Col. Julio Roberto Alpirez last week of ordering the deaths of American innkeeper Michael Devine and guerilla leader Efrain Bamaca. Torricelli said Alpirez was a CIA informant at the time.

President Ramiro de Leon Carpio said Wednesday he was convinced Alpirez was innocent, and again challenged the United States to provide him with evidence suggesting otherwise.

``I met Alpirez this morning and let him know he has the right to sue the U.S. congressman here (in Guatemala) ... and in U.S. civil courts for the damage this has caused him and his family,″ the president said.

De Leon, speaking before leaving for a Central American meeting in neighboring El Salvador, denied that his government had formal ties to the CIA.

``The Guatemalan government and army cannot have knowledge about something illegal and keep it illegal,″ he said.

Torricelli, D-N.J., leveled the charges against Alpirez in a March 22 letter to President Clinton. He said Alpirez ordered the June, 1990 murder of Devine, 49, and the 1992 torture and murder of Bamaca, who was married to American attorney Jennifer Harbury.

Torricelli said Alpirez was on the CIA payroll at the time, and claimed the CIA tried to cover up details of Bamaca’s death.

Guatemala asked U.S. officials for evidence of Torricelli’s claims, but the congressman’s office dismissed the request.

``The facts are not seriously at issue,″ Torricelli said Tuesday, saying government agencies have ``widely admitted″ the allegations in leaks to the media.

President Clinton has demanded information from the CIA and threatened to fire agents who withhold it. The agency denies withholding information, but will not say whether Alpirez was an informant.

Torricelli told the National Security Agency and the U.S. Army to secure records that might shed light on the killings, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Torricelli told the paper he acted after receiving an anonymous letter claiming the agency, which conducts electronic eavesdropping, had intercepted communications suggesting both the CIA and the Army were aware of how the killings happened at the time they occurred.