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Peru court denies release for ousted President Castillo

December 14, 2022

Peru's Supreme Court has ruled that former President Pedro Castillo should stay in jail after he was toppled by lawmakers. His ouster sparked protests that turned deadly.

Police stand guard outside the National Police base where ousted President Pedro Castillo is held
Image: Guadalupe Pardo/AP Photo/picture alliance

The Peruvian Supreme Court has denied an appeal for the release of former President Pedro Castillo, who was taken into custody after attempting to dissolve the country's legislature.

There are fears the decision could inflame violent protests across the country that have already turned deadly, with people demanding Castillo's freedom, the resignation of his successor and an immediate general election for a new president and Congress.

What did the court say?

Supreme Court Judge Cesar San Martin said Castillo's nationally televised announcement last week — in which he announced the dissolution of Congress by presidential decree — was "not a mere act of speech, but the concrete expression of a will to alter the constitutional system and the configuration of public powers."

The judge said evidence suggested that Castillo was intercepted as he tried to reach the Mexican embassy to claim asylum. He was taken into custody shortly after lawmakers voted to remove him from power. Castillo had sought to dissolve Congress ahead of an impeachment vote.

The judge said Castillo's appeal was "unfounded" while reading out the judgment at the end of a virtual hearing.

Angry protests against the removal of Castillo have rumbled on since he was removed, leaving seven people dead — six of them in the Apurimac region where new president Dina Boluarte was born.

With his background as a rural teacher and union leader, left-wing Castillo has his strongest support in the Andean regions, with far less backing in the coastal capital, Lima.

Peru's President Pedro Castillo speaks during a press conference
Castillo's 17-month presidency has been overshadowed by investigations against him and his familyImage: JAVIER TORRES/AFP

An indefinite strike called on Tuesday by indigenous and agrarian organizations forced the train service between the city of Cusco and Machu Picchu to be suspended. Cusco airport was closed overnight after protesters tried to get inside.

Police said protesters had set up roadblocks in 13 of the country's 24 regions.

What did Castillo say?

"I will never give up and abandon this popular cause that brought me here," Castillo said at the court hearing.

"From here I would like to urge the armed forces and national police to lay down their arms and stop killing these people thirsty for justice."

The former president said his arrest was unjust and arbitrary.

"I am not a thief, a rapist, corrupt or a thug," he added, before the judge interrupted and told Castillo to keep to legal arguments.

Why is Castillo being detained?

Castillo was removed from power while facing an impeachment vote — for the third time — against him. The authorities were investigating the president and his family members for alleged corruption.

Peru's President Pedro Castillo arrested

His latest attempt to sideline the Peruvian parliament ended with Congress deciding to impeach him for "moral incapacity."

Although Castillo was provisionally detained for seven days, prosecutors said they would push for his detention for three years.

Within hours, Castillo's vice president Boluarte — herself a former prosecutor — was sworn in as his successor.

rc/dj (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)