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Rodrigo Abd, Associated Press
Guatemala's former strongman Efrain Rios Montt (1982-1983), who faces genocide charges, returns from a break in court in Guatemala City, Thursday Jan. 26, 2012. On Jan. 14, 2012, Rios Montt lost immunity against prosecution that he had enjoyed as a member of the national legislature. As the commander in chief and alleged intellectual author of a military campaign that largely targeted civilians, Rios Montt’s prosecution has long been sought by human rights organizations in Guatemala and elsewhere.

GUATEMALA CITY — Former Guatemalan leader Efrain Rios Montt has appeared in court but is refusing to testify in a genocide case involving crimes against indigenous communities during his dictatorship in the 1980s.

Rios Montt has been accused of being responsible for some of the worse massacres during the Central American country's 36 years of civil war. The 85-year-old former general says he was dealing with a war.

Thousands of people demanding justice surrounded a court building in Guatemala City on Thursday when Rios Montt appeared at a hearing before a judge who will decide whether the ex-dictator can be tried on genocide charges.

Prosecutors say Guatemala's military is implicated in at least 100 incidents involving at least 1,771 deaths.