Guatemala ex-attorney general granted asylum by US in embezzlement case

The U.S. granted asylum to Guatemala's ex-attorney general after her native country issued a warrant for her arrest over alleged embezzlement, a move which she says is retaliation for her prosecutions of many high-profile corruption cases against government officials.

"Thelma is a champion for justice and this is a major victory in the international fight against corruption," House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said of the decision to provide Thelma Aldana asylum from extradition, which the Guatemalan government is already seeking.

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Aldana had already been living in the U.S. for almost a year after the Guatemalan government refused to allow her to run for president in 2019 because of an outstanding arrest warrant against her. Appearing on the ballot would have given her automatic immunity from any prosecution.

"It is great news for me but must also be for the brave prosecutors who in Guatemala and other countries fight for justice in the world," Aldana told Reuters about her asylum. "It gives me a lot of peace but also nostalgia."

Aldana successfully led the charge against corrupt politicians, including former President Otto Pérez Molina, his vice president and Cabinet members, who all ended up convicted and imprisoned because of her probes. Other high-profile investigations have included ones against current President Jimmy Morales and some of his relatives and associates.

In this March 10, 2019 file photo, Thelma Aldana, Guatemala's former chief prosecutor, listens to a journalist's question as she gives a press conference during her campaign event for president, in Guatemala City. The United States has granted political asylum to Aldana on Monday, Feb. 23, 2020, after she was subject to death threats and political persecution. (AP Photo/Oliver de Ros, File)

In this March 10, 2019 file photo, Thelma Aldana, Guatemala's former chief prosecutor, listens to a journalist's question as she gives a press conference during her campaign event for president, in Guatemala City. The United States has granted political asylum to Aldana on Monday, Feb. 23, 2020, after she was subject to death threats and political persecution. (AP Photo/Oliver de Ros, File)

The charges brought forth by the Guatemalan courts stem from a building Aldana purchased at an allegedly inflated price. Her supporters said the price was approved by the comptroller's office.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.