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Guatemala court overrules order expelling UN anti-corruption official

Guatemala's highest court has ruled that President Jimmy Morales can't expel the head of a UN anti-corruption unit. Morales issued the order after the official and prosecutors said they were seeking to lift his immunity.

Indigenous women protest against Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales (Reuters/L. Echeverria)

Dozens of indigenous, rural and student groups gathered in Guatemala City, calling for Morales to quit

Judges on Guatemala's Constitutional Court announced on Tuesday that they had overruled an order by President Jimmy Morales to expel a United Nations anti-corruption official who is investigating graft allegations against the leader.

Guatemala President Jimmy Morales (Getty Images/AFP/M. Recinos)

Morales, a former TV comedian, has faced international and local backlash for the expulsion order

Chief Judge Fransisco de Mata told a news conference that an "exhaustive analysis" led the bench to decide a "definitive suspension."

He noted that the ruling would be communicated to the country's Foreign and Defense Ministries as well as the police service so that the expulsion could not be carried out.

Morales issued an expulsion order for UN investigator Ivan Velasquez early on Sunday, declaring him a persona non grata.

Velasquez, a veteran Colombian prosecutor, heads Guatemala's International Commission against Impunity (CICIG).

Read more: Guatemalan president defiant over ousting of UN anti-corruption chief

Two days prior, Velasquez and Guatemala's chief prosecutor announced they were seeking to lift Morales' immunity in order to investigate allegations of illegal campaign financing.

Morales accused the UN official of provoking a political crisis and interfering in domestic matters.

The country's highest court quickly suspended the order on Sunday and negated Morales' order on Tuesday, arguing that his order was improperly issued.

Ivan Velasquez, commissioner of the United Nations International Commission Against Impunity (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Castillo)

Ivan Velasquez heads a UN-backed anti-corruption unit probing Morales' campaign financing

Backlash against order

Morales' expulsion order prompted a wave of criticism from the international community as well as anger from Guatemalans.

Protesters called on Morales to quit, and the country's health minister resigned from his post in protest.

Earlier Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "shocked" by Morales' move.

Read more: Guatemala - Breaking the silence about the past

The UN panel and local prosecutors have gained popularity in Guatemala over the past decade, garnering respect for tackling corruption as well as helping force the country's previous president, Otto Perez Molina, from office two years ago.

Morales was elected as a successor based on campaign promises to clean up Guatemala's endemic corruption.

The CICIG has said Morales is suspected of failing to declare an estimated $1 million (835,000 euros) in electoral campaign funds.

rs/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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Guatemala's president expels anti-graft chief

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