U.S. criticizes moves against Guatemalan judges, prosecutors

FILE PHOTO: U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price speaks during a news conference in Washington
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WASHINGTON/GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) -A senior U.S. government official on Tuesday criticized what he described as troubling moves against Guatemalan judges and prosecutors who oversee corruption and human rights cases, criticism that Guatemala's government dismissed as ill-informed.

The rebuke from U.S. Department of State spokesman Ned Price comes as the government of conservative Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei has jailed both anti-corruption judges and prosecutors, while still others have fled the Central American country.

"The United States is alarmed by the continued pattern of actions against judges and prosecutors in Guatemala who handle anti-corruption and human rights cases," Price said at a briefing, emphasizing that upholding due process for all citizens, including judges, prosecutors and journalists, was essential to citizen confidence in the justice system.

The Guatemalan prosecutors' office, which is under Attorney General Maria Consuelo Porras, said it "categorically rejects" Price's statement.

The U.S. official "lacked knowledge of the Guatemalan justice system," the office said on Twitter, adding it was independent and strictly complied with the country's laws.

Last year, Porras was included in a list of corrupt and anti-democratic actors published by the U.S. State Department, singling her out for thwarting corruption investigations with arrests and other actions.

At the time, Porras's office insisted it would not accept any interference or pressure from Washington.

(Reportinug by Simon Lewis in Washington and Enrique Garcia in Guatemala City; Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Bradley Perrett)