The judges overseeing the trial of five people facing charges over the murder of a Roman Catholic bishop have asked the United Nations for protection.

The three judges made the request to Param Cumaraswamy, U.N. special reporter on the independence of judges and lawyers, when the U.N. envoy visited their courtroom on May 11.

Cumaraswamy was in Guatemala for three days to investigate death threats against judges and allegations of miscarriage of justice.

Three military officers and a priest are accused of killing Juan Gerardi, auxiliary bishop of Guatemala City, in 1998. The housekeeper of the parish where the bishop lived is charged with helping to cover up the crime.

Bishop Juan Gerardi was killed late on April 26, 1998, just two days after releasing a lengthy report blaming the country's military for most of the deaths and "disappearances"—abductions—during three decades of civil war.

The trial began in March. Shortly before it began, explosive devices were thrown at the house of Iris Barrios, one of the judges hearing the case. The judge was unharmed but angry. "It didn't make me afraid, it made me mad," she said.

Eduardo Cojulun, head of the three-judge panel, announced on April 27 that he had received two death threats.

Barrios, Cojulun and Amanda Guzman, the third judge, have all been given police bodyguards, and the Supreme Court auditorium where the case is being heard is heavily guarded. Visitors are thoroughly searched, and police with automatic weapons are stationed around the courtroom.

Chief prosecutor Leopoldo Zeissig and church attorney Mynor Melgar have also received repeated threats. Melgar represents the archdiocesan human rights office, which has been granted official standing in the trial.

According to a report ...

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