Guatemalan prosecutor eyes stripping presidential candidate of legal immunity
Guatemalan candidates are typically immune from prosecution while running for office
A prosecutor in Guatemala asked a court Monday to lift the immunity of one of the candidates in June presidential elections, because the candidate had asked about a judge’s motive in prosecuting journalists.
Candidates in Guatemala normally have immunity from being prosecuted while they are running, to ensure free elections.
But on Monday government prosecutor Rafael Curruchiche asked the country’s Supreme Court to lift the immunity of candidate Edmond Mulet, because Mulet had asked for an investigation into a judge.
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It was the latest chapter in which Guatemala prosecutors have gone after journalists, politicians, former prosecutors and judges for having investigated corruption inside the government and judicial system.
Experts, opponents and foreign governments say that, instead of going after corruption, prosecutors in Guatemala are now going after those who denounce it.
"Let's see if this crazy, totally unjustified request made by the prosecutor is upheld by the Supreme Court or not," Mulet said Monday. "We will keep on in this process of fighting corruption and shortsightedness."
Mulet, who usually places third or fourth in polls of the presidential candidates, is the only one of them who asked for an investigation of Judge Jimi Bremer.
In February, Bremer ordered the investigation of nine journalists from a newspaper whose president, a prominent government critic, has already been jailed on various charges since last year.
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Bremer said journalists from El Periodico newspaper should be placed under investigation to determine whether they were maliciously pursuing prosecutors, judges and other members of Guatemala’s justice system.
Top prosecutor Cinthia Monterroso had argued that El Periodico published stories about complaints, disciplinary processes and questioned decisions by justice officials, including herself. She said who ordered such stories and the sources of their financing must be investigated.
The U.S. government has sharply criticized the weakening of anti-corruption efforts in Guatemala under President Alejandro Giammattei.
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Some 30 judges, magistrates and prosecutors involved in the investigation or processing of those corruption cases have been forced to flee the country after facing legal action under the current administration.