Quito, Apr 22 (EFE).- Ecuador’s highest court issued Friday a formal request for the extradition from Belgium of former President Rafael Correa, convicted two years in absentia on corruption charges, but the erstwhile head of state revealed that the Belgian government gave him political asylum.
Chief judge Ivan Saquicela went on Teleamazonas television to announce the move.
Correa, 59, was sentenced in 2020 to eight years in prison and banned from public life for 25 years, preventing him from taking part in Ecuador’s 2021 presidential election.
The former president has lived in Belgium, his wife’s native land, since leaving office in 2017 after 10 years in power, and has not set foot in Ecuador since 2018, when prosecutors charged him with awarding public works contracts in exchange for campaign contributions.
Maintaining his innocence, Correa has denounced the prosecution as “lawfare,” a term referring to the weaponization of the judiciary.
Correa, a prominent figure of the center-left in Latin America, responded to Friday’s announcement in Quito by disclosing that Belgium approved last week the request for political asylum he submitted in 2018.
The April 15 document from Belgium’s Office of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRS), seen by Efe, confers refugee status on Correa.
His attorney, Christophe Marchand, said the CGRS granted Correa asylum based on extensive evidence that he was the victim of political persecution in Ecuador.
Correa left the presidency with high approval ratings and was succeeded by one of his former vice presidents, Lenin Moreno, who won election on a promise to maintain the center-left policies of the Alianza Pais party.
Instead, Moreno moved to reverse virtually all of Correa’s initiatives and programs, pulling the country sharply to the right.