Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa requested asylum in Belgium in an apparent bid to avoid extradition, according to judicial sources on Thursday.
The request comes a day after an Ecuadorian judge opened a criminal trial against Correa for his suspected involvement in a botched kidnapping of an opposition lawmaker in 2012.
What we know so far:
- According to judicial sources, Correa applied for asylum in June and Belgian authorities started reviewing the request in August. However, his lawyer told Reuters that "there is nothing about asylum," and rejected news of a request.
- Correa has claimed investigations into his presidency amount to "political persecution" and that he is being wrongfully targeted.
- In July, Interpol rejected a Quito-issued arrest warrant for Correa, saying it was "obviously a political matter."
- The former Ecuadoran president has resided in Belgium since 2017, when his second presidential term came to an end.
Read more: Ecuador requests Interpol detention of ex-president Rafael Correa in Belgium
What is the case about?
Correa, along with former Ecuadoran intelligence head Pablo Romero and two police officers, stands accused of orchestrating the botched kidnapping of an opposition lawmaker.
The former lawmaker Fernando Baldo, a Correa ally who turned critic, was kidnapped in Bogota in 2012. But shortly afterward, Colombian police released him, saying Ecuador's intelligence agency Senain was behind it. The agency reports directly to the presidency.
The Ecuadoran judiciary claims it has sufficient evidence to prosecute and obtain convictions of the defendants. The two police officers were put into a witness protection program after they declared Correa had ordered the kidnapping.
Read more: Ecuador: The end of the 'Citizens' Revolution'?
What happens next?
The trial was suspended shortly after it opened. According to Ecuadoran law, Correa cannot be tried in absentia.
The case is likely to remain suspended indefinitely until the former president returns to his home country or the trial is closed by judges.
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ls/aw (dpa, AFP)