Peru’s ousted president, Pedro Castillo, has been ordered to remain behind bars for another 18 months following his arrest last week which sparked deadly unrest in the nation.
A judicial panel within the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Castillo, initially jailed for seven days, will remain behind bars as prosecutors continue their investigation into criminal charges against the former leader.
The decision did not touch on the merits of the accusations faced by Castillo, who has been charged with rebellion and conspiracy, but a judge heading up the panel cited the risk of flight by the former president.
Castillo has denied all the charges and has claimed he remains the country’s lawful president.
The leftist Castillo, the son of peasant farmers and a former teacher who won a narrow victory at the polls last year running under the banner of the Marxist Free Peru party, was removed by an overwhelming vote of lawmakers who accused him of “permanent moral incapacity” just hours after Castillo ordered the Congress dissolved on Dec. 7.
Protests erupted after Castillo was voted out of power by lawmakers last week, following his attempt to dissolve Congress ahead of an impeachment vote.
The judge’s decision came a day after the government declared a police state as it struggles to calm violent protests that have led to at least eight deaths.
The latest political crisis has only deepened the instability gripping the country, with six presidents coming and going in as many years.
Judge Cesar San Martin Castro’s ruling came days after Congress stripped Castillo of the privilege that keeps Peru’s presidents from facing criminal charges.
Castillo and his legal team refused to participate in Thursday’s virtual hearing, arguing it lacked ‘minimum guarantees.’
Peru’s Supreme Prosecutor Alcides Chinchay said in court Thursday that Castillo faces at least 10 years in prison for the rebellion charge.
Meanwhile, a large group of protesters – and police in riot gear – gathered in central Lima Thursday evening.
The government also imposed a curfew in at least 15 communities, as allowed by the nationwide emergency declaration issued Wednesday.
The protesters were demanding Castillo’s freedom, the resignation of President Dina Boluarte, and the immediate scheduling of general elections to pick a new president and members of Congress.
They have burned police stations, taken over an airstrip used by the armed forces, and invaded the runway of the international airport in Arequipa, a gateway to some of Peru’s tourist attractions.
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