World

Guatemala president ordered detained in corruption probe, will voluntarily appear

  • A street vendor of Guatemalan flags smiles around the Constitution Square in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. As Guatemala’s presidential campaign builds to a climax, the biggest rallies of all have been demands to call off the election itself scheduled for Sept. 6. Tens of thousands have taken to the streets in protest amid a roiling series of corruption scandals that have a former vice president behind bars accused of taking millions in bribes, and President Otto Perez Molina stripped of his immunity from prosecution and facing possible criminal charges and removal from office.  (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

    A street vendor of Guatemalan flags smiles around the Constitution Square in Guatemala City, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. As Guatemala’s presidential campaign builds to a climax, the biggest rallies of all have been demands to call off the election itself scheduled for Sept. 6. Tens of thousands have taken to the streets in protest amid a roiling series of corruption scandals that have a former vice president behind bars accused of taking millions in bribes, and President Otto Perez Molina stripped of his immunity from prosecution and facing possible criminal charges and removal from office. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 31, 2015, file photo, Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina acknowledges reporters at the end of a press conference, in Guatemala City. Guatemala's attorney general said Wednesday, Sep. 2, 2015, that a judge has granted her request for an order to detain President Otto Perez Molina in connection with a government corruption case that has thrown the country into turmoil. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo, File)

    FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 31, 2015, file photo, Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina acknowledges reporters at the end of a press conference, in Guatemala City. Guatemala's attorney general said Wednesday, Sep. 2, 2015, that a judge has granted her request for an order to detain President Otto Perez Molina in connection with a government corruption case that has thrown the country into turmoil. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • File-This Aug. 31, 2015, file photo shows Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina speaking during a press conference, in Guatemala City.  A president's spokesman says Molina has resigned in the face of a fraud scandal. Jorge Ortega says Perez Molina submitted his resignation at midnight local time Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, after a judge issued an order to detain him in a corruption case that has brought his government to the brink. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo, File)

    File-This Aug. 31, 2015, file photo shows Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina speaking during a press conference, in Guatemala City. A president's spokesman says Molina has resigned in the face of a fraud scandal. Jorge Ortega says Perez Molina submitted his resignation at midnight local time Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, after a judge issued an order to detain him in a corruption case that has brought his government to the brink. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo, File)  (The Associated Press)

A Guatemalan judge issued an order to detain President Otto Perez Molina in a government corruption scandal that has thrown the country into turmoil.

Attorney General Thelma Aldana told Canal Antigua television late Wednesday that Judge Miquel Angel Galvez granted her request for the order. The president will have to appear before the judge on crimes of illicit association, fraud and receiving bribe money in a widespread customs fraud ring in which the vice president has already been jailed and faces charges.

Perez Molina's attorney, Cesar Calderon, told The Associated Press that the president will appear voluntarily and declare before the judge as soon as they have confirmed the order was issued.

He won't be arrested because he is cooperating with the process.

Galvez will decide the next step based on the president's testimony, which could include stripping him of his position, jailing him or maintaining his job and freedom during the judicial process.

Perez Molina, 64, has maintained his innocence and vows to face the legal process. No formal charges have been filed.

He is under an order not to leave the country, and on Tuesday congress lifted his immunity from prosecution in what is widely seen as an unprecedented blow against entrenched corruption and impunity in this Central American nation. Each step in the process is a first, as no sitting president in Guatemala has been prosecuted for a crime, though some have faced corruption charges after leaving office.

The corruption scandal, uncovered by prosecutors and a U.N. commission probing criminal networks in Guatemala, involved a scheme known as "La Linea," or "The Line," in which businesspeople paid bribes to avoid import duties through the customs agency. The ring is believed to have defrauded the state of millions of dollars.

The scandal has already claimed the job of former Vice President Roxana Baldetti, whose ex-personal secretary was named as the alleged ringleader. Baldetti resigned May 8 and is currently in jail awaiting trial on accusations she took millions of dollars in bribes.

Protesters fill the streets almost daily over the scandal, demanding not only that Perez Molina step down but that next Sunday's presidential elections be postponed. He says delaying the vote would be against the law.

Perez Molina is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election, and whoever becomes his successor would take office in January.

Those voting against Perez Molina in Congress included members of his own ruling party.

Business leaders, Guatemala's National Council of Bishops and even the government comptrollers' office have all urged Perez Molina to step down.

___