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Ecuador court says the detention of Jorge Glas inside the Mexican embassy was illegal

Judges deemed the arrest ordered by President Noboa to be arbitrary, but they also denied a request by Glas’ defense to take him out of La Roca prison and send him back to the diplomatic mission

Ecuadorian police
Police officers stormed the Mexican Embassy in Quito last Friday, following an order from the Ecuadorian president, Daniel Noboa.David Bustillos (AP/ LaPresse)

An Ecuadorian court on Friday declared illegal the arrest of former vice-president Jorge Glas, carried out last Friday at the Mexican Embassy in Quito where Glas was waiting to receive a safe conduct as a political asylum seeker. The violation of Mexican sovereignty ordered by President Daniel Noboa has triggered a diplomatic conflict and the breakdown of relations between the two countries, and attracted nearly unanimous condemnation by other nations.

The court considered that the detention was arbitrary and that Glas’s rights, as well as national regulations on the status of diplomatic missions, were violated. A few days before the assault on the Mexican embassy, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico had granted political refugee status to Glas, who served as vice-president to former Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa. The latter considers himself to be persecuted by Ecuadorian authorities and a victim of lawfare.

Glas spent five years in prison for a corruption case and was about to go back to preventive prison on an embezzlement charge. Mexico was counting on Noboa to issue a safe conduct to the politician so that he could fly to Mexico City but, instead, the president issued a surprise order to raid the Mexican embassy and extract Glas. Ecuador has justified the move by assuring that Glas is a common criminal and that he does not deserve asylum status.

At the Friday hearing, judges denied the habeas corpus request that Glas’ defense had filed to get him out of La Roca, the maximum security prison where he is being held in Guayaquil along with leaders of the criminal groups that have made Ecuador the most dangerous country on the continent in recent years. The lawyers asked that the former vice-president be returned to the Mexican embassy or to another embassy that can guarantee him asylum. Neither has been granted.

Meanwhile, in the National Court of Justice, prosecutors are seeking to involve the former vice president in a new legal process over the alleged misuse of public funds that should have been destined for the reconstruction of areas affected by an earthquake in 2016. Glas headed the Reconstruction Committee that administered a $3 billion fund, but according to prosecutors, several projects executed by that agency had nothing to do with disaster relief. A judge has yet to make a decision on this new legal challenge.

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