Guatemala congress to weigh lifting Morales’ immunity

Top court rules congress should consider request to strip the president’s immunity as Morales faces corruption probe.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales speaks during a meeting with the country's mayors [File: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images]

A request to lift Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales’ immunity from prosecution should go before legislators for final consideration, the country’s Supreme Court said.

The court’s decision on Monday is related to allegations of illegal financing for Morales’ 2015 campaign.

Investigations have targeted several political parties including his National Convergence Front.

“There appears to be sufficient evidence to allow the transfer of the case to congress,” Supreme Court spokesman Angel Pineda said.

Congress must now form a five-member committee to examine the case and present its conclusion to the full body.

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For presidential immunity to be lifted, 105 of the 158 deputies would have to vote in favour of the request.

Following the ruling, Morales said he has always defended the rule of law. He added that he would continue to respect the country’s institutions and asked Guatemalans to remain objective.

Prosecutors allege that about $825,000 in financing for Morales’ campaign was hidden and that other expenditures had no explainable source of funding. The president has denied any wrongdoing.

Last month, chief prosecutor Thelma Adana and Ivan Velasquez, the head of a UN anti-corruption commission (CICIG) operating in Guatemala, announced they were seeking to have Morales’ immunity stripped.

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Two days later the president ordered Velasquez’s immediate expulsion from the country, but that was swiftly overturned by the Constitutional Court.

Morales won the presidency in 2015, running on a platform of honest governance after his predecessor Otto Perez Molina was forced to resign and was imprisoned in a multi-million dollar corruption case stemming from a CICIG investigation.

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Source: News Agencies