Court Acquits Defendants in Slaying

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) - Three people accused of inciting villagers to attack a Japanese tourist they feared was there to steal children were acquitted of murder charges.

The tourist, Tetsuo Yamahiro, 40, and Guatemalan bus driver Edgar Castellanos, 35, were beaten to death by some 200 people in Todos Santos, about 250 miles northwest of the capital. Yamahiro was among 35 Japanese visiting the marketplace, a popular tourist stop.

Rumors had been spreading that foreigners went to the area to steal children. The defense also noted that a radio station had warned a Satanic sect was planning to steal children.

The mob attacked Yamahiro when he tried to speak to a child. Hundreds of others egged on, observed or participated in the April 2000 attack, prosecutors said.

The villagers doused the driver's body in gasoline and burned it in front of the horrified visitors. Three others from the tour group suffered minor injuries and two police officers who attempted to stop the mob also were injured.

On Monday, a court in Quetzaltenango, about 120 miles west of Guatemala City, acquitted Edmundo Lorenzo, Lucas Perez and Catalina Pablo of murder but recognized that Pablo worked the crowd up into a frenzy.

Pablo testified that she thought Yamahiro was going to steal her son.

The court also ordered investigations into two others suspected of participating in the mob killings.

AP-NY-06-26-01 0354EDT

Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.